The hurricane built up gradually. In late August it was just a bit of local ‘weather’ near the Bahamas. Who was to know that it would evolve into one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit land in the USA? From landfall, it was to last for another ten days with winds reaching 296 kph (185 mph) accompanied by a 6 m (20 ft.) storm surge.
From the afternoon of September 2 until 05.00 the next morning the hurricane ripped through Florida’s Upper Keys with extraordinary ferocity, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Almost every building over a distance of some 50 km (30 mi) in the Upper Keys was torn up, while a ‘wall of water’ raced in from the south flooding everything in its path, sweeping away bridges and embankments and washing a train off the track on the Florida East Railway extension. The flimsy huts of three relief work camps (set up to provide jobs for World War I veterans under President Roosevelt’s New Deal) were pulverized, with around 260 fatalities.
The storm curved northwards and then inland, crossing the Gulf Coast on September 4, damaging docks and fishing boats and causing tides to rise 1.5 m (5 ft.) higher than usual. It then howled into Georgia and across the Carolinas on September 5, causing yet more damage, before losing intensity as it blew back into the Atlantic. Out at sea the wind picked up strength again. A week after hitting the Keys it was still a Category One force as it ploughed northwards, until eventually it was calmed down by the cooler temperature of the North Atlantic.
When was the Great Labor Day Hurricane: September 1-10 1935
Where was the Great Labor Day Hurricane: Upper and Middle Florida Keys, USA
What was the Great Labor Day Hurricane death toll: More than 400
You should know: The great Labor Day hurricane happened in what was already one of the grimmest years of the Great Depression. The unnecessary deaths of so many war veterans caused a political furor as to the competence of the federal authorities and rescue agencies.