The Great Okeechobee Flood — in the relation of Floridas hurricane history, no other hurricane catastrophe can compare to its toll of at least 1,836 dead in Florida, every bit good as another 1,575 in the Caribbean. At the clip of the calamity, many in South Florida said the existent decease count at that place was over 2,300 ; some said it may hold been every bit high as 3,500. Whichever figure is right, it ranks among the United States worst natural catastrophes ; merely the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 ( over 8,000 ) , the Johnstown inundation of 1889 ( 2,200 ) , and the two hurricanes of 1893 ( 2,000 each ) are likely to hold caused more deceases on American dirt. It arrived on the seashore near Palm Beach on the dark of September 16, 1928, merely two old ages after the Great Miami Hurricane, and like its predecessor, it cast its most baleful blow on those who lived on the southern borders of Lake Okeechobee.
It began in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands, where it was foremost reported by the crew of the SS Commack at latitude 17 grades north and longitude 48 grades west. At the clip, this was the most eastern wireless study sing a hurricane in the Atlantic of all time received. The storm doubtless developed important strength good before it reached its first mark — the island of Guadeloupe. The oculus of the storm crossed there at midday on September 12, with a barometric depression of 27.76 inches. Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, and Montserrat were devastated. By the forenoon of the following twenty-four hours, the hurricane was sou’-west of St. Croix, where the SS Matura recorded a low force per unit area of 27.50 inches. After presenting important devastation to the Virgin Islands, it crossed Puerto Rico on Thursday, the thirteenth, the Day of San Felipe. The blast to Puerto Rico was unbelievable ; harmonizing to Tannehill in Hurricanes: Their Nature and History, “ Wind there was the highest, rainfall the heaviest, and devastation the greatest of record in recent old ages. ” At least 300 lives were lost, and many more died in the undermentioned hebdomads due to famishment and disease. Damages in Puerto Rico were estimated at $ 50 million, and over 200,000 people were left homeless. Because of its atrocious effects on this day of the month, the September 1928 hurricane is frequently referred to as “ San Felipe. ”
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The illustriousness of the calamity in Puerto Rico easy made the intelligence in the United States, merely about the clip Florida occupants were having their first warnings of the powerful storm offshore. On September 15, it swept through the Bahamas Islands, darting off anemometer cups before they could enter the highest air currents. Residents along the Florida seashore did what they could to fix ; some secured their places, and others fled. In the early hours of the sixteenth, San Felipe was poised 200 stat mis south east of Miami, and already this big and powerful storm was being felt along the seashore, which was battered by gale-force air currents and turn overing breaker.
By nightfall the hurricane made its lurch over the Florida seashore near West Palm Beach. Experiencing the amazing power one would anticipate from a class 4 storm, Palm Beach County was rocked by a big tidal rush and air currents estimated at over 150 miles per hour. A minimal barometer reading of 27.43 inches was taken at 7:00 p.m. , which fell merely abruptly of set uping a new record depression for the United States ( a reading of 27.37 inches had been measured in 1919 ) . West Palm Beach recorded a sum of 18.42 inches of rain during the hebdomad of the storm, over 10 inches of which fell as the hurricane passed through. Witnesss reported that the “ letup ” lasted about 40 proceedingss, and the storm was traveling at a forward velocity of about 14 miles per hour.
Up the seashore at Jupiter, many occupants, both black and white, took safety in the schoolhouse, which weathered the storm much better than did their places. One cement-block house collapsed during the storm, oppressing several members of a household — the merely reported deceases in Jupiter. The Jupiter Lighthouse, the ruddy brick lookout that had witnessed many storms, was said to hold swayed a singular 17 inches “ as howitzer squeezed from between bricks like toothpaste. ” Prior to the hurricane, the visible radiation had been converted from oil burners to electricity. As the storm reached the seashore, all power lines were downed, and the beacon subsidiary generator failed to work. Captain Seabrook, the keeper, refused to allow the visible radiation travel out and scrambled to reinstall the old oil burners. Without electricity, the visible radiation ‘s mantle had to be turned by manus, and Seabrook, who was enduring from blood toxic condition at the clip, was prepared to force the setup around all dark. His boy Franklin, detecting the bright ruddy run on his male parent ‘s arm, stepped in to work the mantle, go oning to near exhaustion. As a consequence, the light shone through one of the century ‘s most awful storms, and subsequently the younger Seabrook was officially commended for his gallantry.
All along the seashore, wharfs, docks, and waterfront constructions were lifted by the tide and carried for 100s of paces. In some cases, houses were raised from their foundations and spun 90 grades, their porches and stepss twisted into tangled agreements. Trees were knocked down on virtually every street, wrapped in webs of electric overseas telegrams. Throughout the country, the jobs faced by the storm subsisters were similar to those endured by subsisters of the Miami hurricane — they lacked nutrient and H2O, 1000s of homeless were in demand of shelter, and they suffered the emotional lesions of holding to get by with catastrophe. At least 26 lives were lost on the seashore.
On Tuesday forenoon, September 18, 36 hours after the hurricane ‘s reaching, headlines around the state summarized the catastrophe: “ Florida Destroyed! Florida Destroyed! ” The initial intelligence of the catastrophe at West Palm Beach was merely get downing to emerge when a far more baleful calamity was discovered — the mind-boggling slaughter on the borders of Lake Okeechobee.
By midday on the twenty-four hours of the storm, many of the people around the lake had heard of the nearing cyclone. In South Bay several work forces took the enterprise to drive the labyrinth of roads around the lake to distribute the intelligence and to press people to seek shelter. Many adult females and kids gathered on a big flatboat anchored in the lake. But as the afternoon progressed and the great storm grew nigher, 100s of households, landholders, and labourers went about their work on the wide, level terrain with no thought of what was approximately to happen.
Normally, the H2O degree in the lake was maintained somewhat above the degree of the land so that H2O could be drained off as needed. In the hebdomads before the storm, heavy rains had kept the lake degree high and filled the ditches and canals around the clearings. By September 10, the lake degree had risen three pess in 30 yearss, and the 10 or more inches of rain that fell during the storm added to the load. But it was the intense hurricane air currents, estimated at over 150 miles per hour at Canal Point, that lifted the Waterss of Lake Okeechobee and tossed them due south, wholly rinsing off full communities and the butchs that were supposed to protect them. Harmonizing to some studies, the Waterss rose from four to six pess in the first hr of the storm, and still-water Markss in some edifices were about eight pess above the land. Few were able to last this unbelievable wall of H2O. In the darkness of the following few hours, Florida experienced its greatest recorded calamity.
A elaborate and graphic history of these events is chronicled in Lawrence E. Will ‘s book, Okeechobee Hurricane and the Hoover Dike. In it, Will relives the storm and writes of the great sarcasm of the catastrophe: “ This catastrophe occurred within a few stat mis of a big metropolis and of a universe celebrated resort, yet so stray was the location that non until three yearss subsequently did the province ‘s ain governor learns of its outrageousness. So drawn-out and so hard was the terrain that after six hebdomads the hunt for organic structures was discontinued with many still unrecovered. ”
As the storm moved on and the Sun emerged the undermentioned twenty-four hours, few alleviation bureaus rushed to the assistance of the subsisters at Okeechobee. In fact, most attending was foremost placed on the devastation along the seashore. Soon, nevertheless, word spread of a great catastrophe, the range of which it would take many yearss to recognize. Dead organic structures were scattered everyplace, break uping in the Florida Sun with each passing twenty-four hours. Many of those who had managed to last had been swept for stat mis into the saw grass and were forced to walk or wade back to whatever recognizable roadway they could happen. Some, excessively weak or injured to stand or walk, sat for yearss in hopes of being spotted by passersby. Some who survived the storm are believed to hold perished subsequently as they wandered the huge Everglades.
Several unusual events were reported in the wake of the storm. Arthur Stokes, a black worker arrested for slaying before the hurricane, had to be released at his test because the lone informants had drowned in the storm. Similarly, the storm clarified the whereabouts of Deputy State Hotel Commissioner Pat Houston, who was believed to hold absconded with a considerable amount of the province ‘s money because of his long absence. It was reported that Houston ‘s good name was returned when his organic structure was found near Pahokee. Governor Martin said that the organic structure of one of the storm victims, C. L. Reddick, was found five yearss after the inundation, still guarded by the adult male ‘s sure Canis familiaris. One local adult male, emotionally numbed by the catastrophe, worked long hours in hunt of organic structures, even though he himself had twice been bitten by a H2O mocassin. Possibly most astonishing of all, an eighty-three-year-old adult female from Belle Glade was found alive in a steel washtub on September 20, four yearss after the storm.
Unfortunately, because of the bad promotion Florida had received after the 1926 storm and the economic flop that followed, some functionaries at first downplayed the catastrophe at Okeechobee. But word of the calamity shortly spread, and more alleviation poured in. The Red Cross was good prepared for the storm ‘s wake, holding gained valuable experience during the Miami hurricane and the inundation at Moore Haven. Local voluntary chapters went to work every bit shortly as intelligence of the storm ‘s impact in Puerto Rico was known. Well before the hurricane struck Florida, the Red Cross had dispatched six experient alleviation workers to the province. After the storm hit, while the American Legion was busy with deliverance attempts and the hunt for organic structures, the Red Cross set up 22 exigency eating centres. Soon 1000s of refugees had entree to nutrient, vesture, and shelter. The people of the clearings were in peculiar demand of vesture, as the swirling floodwaters had left many of the subsisters about naked.
Work Beginnings: The Forgotten Storm of 1928,