Labor Day Hurricane killed hundreds of U.S. veterans

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NOAA/The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 killed more than 200 World War I veterans residing at a work camp during the Great Depression. NOAA/The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 killed more than 200 World War I veterans residing at a work camp during the Great Depression.

 

While the nation’s workers struggled to overcome the effects of the Great Depression and celebrate Labor Day 1935, Mother Nature pulled a cruel trick of irony on everyone.

By the time she was done, hundreds of people were swept away by a mighty 20-foot storm surge created by the most intense storm to ever strike the United States mainland.

While students prepared to start school, a rapidly intensifying Category 5 hurricane churned up the waters east of the Florida Keys. By the time the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was finished wrecking lives and homes, it would kill hundreds before disappearing into the northern Atlantic Ocean days later.

On Sept. 2, 1935 the great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 struck the Florida Keys as a Category 5 storm that killed more than 200 World War I veterans housed in a work camp, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A 10-car relief train was bowled over by the hurricane’s two-story storm surge.

When the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 struck the Florida Keys, the central pressure measured 892 millibars. It remains the only storm to strike the United States with a central press of less than 900 millibars. For comparison, Camille (1969) had a central pressure of 909 millibars and Katrina (2005) was 920 millibars.

Wilma (2005) and Gilbert (1998) registered lower central pressures over the ocean and before they made landfall.

After striking the Florida Keys on Sept. 2, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 moved northward, paralleling the Florida coast until it made a second landfall near Cedar key as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 4. The storm quickly weakened to a tropical storm while it passed over Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina before reaching the Atlantic Ocean near Norfolk, Va. The storm dissipated south of Greenland in the Northern Atlantic on Sept. 10.

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was tightly strung. Its eye measured only 13 miles across. Hurricane force winds extended only 15 miles from the center. Estimated wind speed at the eye, however, was 185 miles per hour.

In all, more than 400 people died as a result of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 which caused $6 million in damage in 1935 dollars.


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