The 1935 Florida Key's Hurricane
(Made famous in the movie classic Key Largo).

Most intense hurricane to ever strike US

The wreckage of an 11-car passenger train is shown in the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935 after the train was derailled by an unnamed hurricane that claimed the lives of 423 people.  (AP Photo/File)

Sep. 2, 1935

The Labor Day storm was a Category 5 hurricane that killed 408 people in the Florida Keys. People caught in the open were blasted by sand with such force that it stripped away their clothing.

The storm destroyed Henry Flagler's railroad that connected Key West to the mainland and is said to have cleared every tree and every building off Matecumbe Key.

Those who perished in the storm included 259 World War I veterans living in three Civilian Conservation Corps camps while they worked constructing the Overseas Highway. A train sent to rescue them from the storm arrived too late and many died on board when it was swept off its track by the storm surge.

Author Ernest Hemingway visited the Keys after the storm and wrote a scathing magazine article critical of those rescue efforts titled, "Who Killed the Vets?"

Damage in the United States was estimated at $6 million.

The pressure at the center of a hurricane was measured at 892 millibars. Normally, atmospheric pressure at sea level averages about 1,013 millibars.

The only other category 5 hurricane to strike the U.S. coast was Camille, which hit Mississippi in August 1969. Camille's central pressure was 909 millibars.

Andrew ranks third. Classified as a category 4 storm, Andrew's central pressure measured 922 millibars.

This 1935 storm was first detected east of the central Bahamas on August 29. Moving westward, it passed near Andros Island on September 1, at which time it reached hurricane strength and turned west-northwestward.

Phenomenal strengthening then occurred, and when the storm reached the middle Florida Keys on September 2, it was a Category 5 hurricane.

After roaring through the Keys, the hurricane turned gradually northward almost parallel to the Florida west coast until it again made landfall near Cedar Key as a Category 2 hurricane on the 4th.

A northeastward motion took the storm across the southeastern United States to the Atlantic coast near Norfolk, VA on September 6. It continued into the Atlantic, becoming extratropical on the 7th and last being detected on the 10th.


Religious officials, including a Catholic priest, a rabbi and a prostestant minister, hold a funeral ceremony on Matecumbe Key prior to cremating the victims by setting fire to the wooden caskets.   (Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives)

The boxes being burned are makeshift caskets, containing victims' bodies. Over 350 veterans were thus cremated on the banks of Snake Creek, between Islamorada and Tavernier.   (Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives)

Locomotive 447 was the only thing left standing in Islamorada. Here it is pictured several weeks later.
(Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives)


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