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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813061306
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Publication date: 03/31/2015
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 747,455
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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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Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Groveguy More than 1 year ago
I had heard about this book from the newspaper and having always had an interest in hurricanes, I thought I would give this one a try. I loved the book and got a real feel for the awful time when this storm hit the Keys. The book was packed with information and recounts but was written in a way to draw you into the lives of the people that were impacted by the storm. There were so many names it was sometimes to keep them all straight and sometimes there was repetitive material but the overall reading experience for me was great. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that loves history, storms or reading more about an era gone by. Job well done.
SaraJaneFL More than 1 year ago
Thomas Neil Knowles has written a wonderful book. As a Florida native who has spent a lot of time on the Keys, I found it particulary intriguing. I became incredibly attached to the people who experienced this tragedy, and I wept for them and their families. Mr. Knowles' style in delivering this true story is masterful. He gently teases the reader of events yet to come, making it difficult to put the book down. His summaries were concise and factual, helping the reader grasp the significance of events. I was moved and inspired, and filled with awe and sadness. Anyone with any interest in the weather or old Florida will truly enjoy this book.
libri_amor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My latest read is Thomas Neil Knowles' book Category 5 - The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane. The book was Published by the University Press of Florida and is the result of 12 years of research and many interviews. This is actually my second book on this hurricane. Three years ago I read Phil Scott's 2006 book, Hemingway's Hurricane, so I was already familiar with the tragic events of the 1935 Labor Day weekend. Even with this background I found the book very interesting. Knowles graphically portrays the lives of Florida Keys residents immediately before the hurricane, during the day of the storm and the aftermath. Both books address the tragic loss of the hundreds of World War I veterans sent to the Keys to build a continuous road link to Key West. Unlike Scott's book, Knowles provides more information by way maps and graphics. Both books reproduce many photographs of the aftermath documenting the total devastation and lose of life. Through his vivid writing style, Knowles gives us a glimpse of life on the Florida Keys during the height of the depression and the life & death struggles experienced on that day. Knowles compliments the human stories with just enough factual background on hurricanes, the US Weather Service and the Florida East Coast Railway to keep the narrative flowing for easy reading.In his epilogue, Knowles addresses whether if could happen again? The 1935 population of the Florida Keys at the center of the hurricane was 284 residents. In 2000 the same area had a population of 6,846. Current estimates are that an evacuation of the Keys would take 36 hours. I don't know if this estimate takes into account the Katrina experience but it seems to be a low end estimate to me. The Labor Day Hurricane (they weren't given names until 1953) went from Category 1 to Category 5 in the 36 hours prior to landfall. Knowles thus, answers the question "Unfortunately, the answer is yes, and such an event has the potential to be much worse in terms of the number of causalities and the amount of property damage."Anyone contemplating a seaside home in the southeast should read either of these books. First as checkpoint on the potential devastation that a hurricane can reek and second, as motivation to evacuate the shore area when a hurricane threatens. Unlike 1935, today's technology of satellites, hurricane hunter aircraft, and knowledge of hurricane physics make any loss of life avoidable.