Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane

Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane

by Thomas Neil Knowles
     
 

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A frightening account of the first Category 5 storm to strike the U.S.
 
“A gripping account. . . . Winds were so strong that they tore babies from the arms of their parents. Over four hundred people lost their lives, including over two hundred veterans of World War I. It was a tragedy that did not have to happen.”—John Wallace

Overview

A frightening account of the first Category 5 storm to strike the U.S.
 
“A gripping account. . . . Winds were so strong that they tore babies from the arms of their parents. Over four hundred people lost their lives, including over two hundred veterans of World War I. It was a tragedy that did not have to happen.”—John Wallace Viele, author of The Florida Keys: A History of the Pioneers
 
“Makes for fascinating reading about a period of time when science, politics, and nature converged, resulting in disaster.”—Rodney E. Dillon Jr., Vice President, Past Perfect Florida History, Inc.
 
In the midst of the Great Depression, a furious storm struck the Florida Keys with devastating force. With winds estimated at over 225 miles per hour, it was the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the United States.
 
Striking at a time before storms were named, the catastrophic tropical cyclone became known as the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, and its aftermath was felt all the way to Washington, D.C.
In the hardest hit area of the Florida Keys, three out of every five residents were killed, while hundreds of World War I veterans sent there by the federal government perished.
 
By sifting through overlooked official records and interviewing survivors and the relatives of victims, Thomas Knowles pieces together this dramatic story, moment by horrifying moment. He explains what daily life was like on the Keys, why the veteran work force was there (and relatively unprotected), the state of weather forecasting at the time, the activities of the media covering the disaster, and the actions of government agencies in the face of severe criticism over their response to the disaster.
 
The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 remains one of the most intense to strike America’s shores. Category 5 is a sobering reminder that even with modern meteorological tools and emergency management systems, a similar storm could cause even more death and destruction today.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Compelling . . . demands to be read in one sitting. . . . [A] sobering yet gripping account of the storm’s ferocity, and at the same time personalizes its consequences by making us care about the people it affected. If you are a fan of the Keys, the author’s descriptions of life there in the mid-1930s will add to your understanding of why it is such a unique place to so many people.”—Miami Herald

“[T]old in vivid detail. . .  The book is the result of a 12-year labor of love for Knowles, who combed through hundreds of pages of testimony from a 1936 congressional hearing on the hurricane before interviewing the only seven survivors he was able to track down.”—Tallahassee Democrat

“Knowles tells the story in all of its pulse-quickening detail.”—Creative Loafing

“Dramatic anecdotes about those affected by the hurricane play out within the context of U.S. weather service history, the on-again, off-again development of the Florida Keys, and Great Depression public works programs utilizing unemployed veterans.”—Journal of Southern History

“Provides a unique perspective on an important episode in the state’s history that had not just local but national consequences. While [Knowles’s] research provides the reader with considerable insight into life and culture in the Florida Keys during the 1930s, it also speaks significantly to how storms such as the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 or, more recently, Hurricane Katrina have the potential to become national issues.”—Tampa Bay History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813033105
Publisher:
University Press of Florida
Publication date:
06/01/2009
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Neil Knowles is the author of Long Key: Flagler’s Island Getaway for the Rich and Famous. Born and raised in Key West, he is a fourth generation Conch whose ancestors moved from the Bahamas o the island in the mid-1800s. He now lives in Tallahassee.

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