The Thinking 

The Great Miami Hurricane, 1926

September 8, 2017

AN INTERESTING POST from The National Weather Service on the 1928 Hurricane, in which 372 people died:

By September, 1926, the population of Dade County and the young City of Miami had blossomed to well over 100,000 (more than doubling from the census figure of 42,753 in 1920) and construction was everywhere.  Smaller nearby settlements of Lemon City, Cocoanut Grove, and Little River were absorbed as Miami swelled with new residents; optimistic, speculative, and woefully under-educated about hurricanes.  New buildings were constantly starting on Miami Beach, which had been built across Biscayne Bay on a series of barrier islands, bulldozed from their mangrove beginnings.


In those days, storm warnings were centralized in Washington, DC, and disseminated to field offices like Miami.  However, as late as the morning of September 17, less than 24 hours before the category 4 storm’s effects would begin in South Florida, no warnings had been issued.  At noon, the Miami Weather Bureau Office was authorized to post storm warnings (one step below hurricane, or winds of 48 to 55 knots).  It was only as the barometer began a precipitous fall, around 11 PM the night of September 17, that Gray hoisted hurricane warnings.

The story of what happened over the next 12 hours is best told by those who lived through it at the Weather Bureau Office. Click on the links below to read the official record written by Official-in-Charge Richard Gray of the Miami Weather Bureau Office.

Weather Bureau Record Part 1
Weather Bureau Record Part 2
Weather Bureau Record Part 3

Gray describes the moments on September 18 when the eye of the Hurricane passed through Miami and many people, assuming the storm was over, left shelter only to be caught up in the devastating winds a short time later.

People even began returning to the mainland from Miami Beach.  The lull lasted only about 35 minutes, according to Gray, during which the streets became “crowded with people”.  The worst part of the hurricane, with onshore southeasterly winds bringing a 10 foot storm surge onto Miami Beach and the barrier islands, began around 7 AM and continued the rest of the morning.  At the height of the storm surge, the water from the Atlantic extended all the way across Miami Beach and Biscayne Bay into the City of Miami for several city blocks.

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