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Recalling the catastrophic 1935 Labor Day hurricane — battered the Florida Keys

Thursday, September 2nd 2021, 5:05 am - On this day in weather history, the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 reached its peak intensity.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


On August 29, 1935, a storm formed in the Atlantic Ocean. However, it reached its peak intensity on Sep. 2, which is how it got its name "The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935".

On Aug. 31, a tropical depression was located in the Bahamas. The next day, the storm intensified into a hurricane as it headed towards Andros Island.

Labor Day hurricane 1935-09-04 weather map *"Surface weather analysis of the 1935 Labor Day hurricane on 4 Sep. 1936." Courtesy of Wikipedia*

On Sep. 2, the hurricane continued to strengthen, with wind speeds as high as 295 km/h. At this intensity, the storm made landfall near Long Key in the Florida Keys. The hurricane made another landfall over Cedar Keys. That day, an aircraft was used to locate the hurricane, making it the first flight for that specific purpose.

The storm eventually dissipated on Sep. 10, in the North Atlantic Ocean. In total it killed 423 people and caused $100 million (1935 USD) worth of damage.

The Labor Day Hurricane is one of the most intense Atlantic storms ever, coming in third behind the strongest - Wilma in 2005 and Gilbert in 1988. The Labor Day storm is still the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Western Hemisphere. It's tied with 2019's Hurricane Dorian for the strongest storm to make landfall in terms of wind speed.

Florida Keys Memorial Dedication Nov 14, 1937 *"Dedication of Florida Keys Memorial, Nov. 14, 1937." Courtesy of Wikipedia*

The Florida Keys received most of the storm's damage. The hurricane almost fully flattened the Upper Keys, around the area that is now known as the village of Islamorada.

On Nov. 14, 1937, the Florida Division of the Federal Art Project unveiled a memorial for the victims of the Labor Day hurricane. It's located in Islamorada, close to near where the town's post office stood. At the unveiling, President Roosevelt sent a telegram that said, "the disaster which made desolate the hearts of so many of our people brought a personal sorrow to me because some years ago I knew many residents of the keys."

To learn more about the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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