It was Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1935, when the nation’s first-recorded Category 5 hurricane struck the Florida Keys. The winds: between 200 and 250 miles per hour. The storm surge: 15 feet high. Thirty miles of a railroad track connecting a portion of the archipelago was decimated. Hundreds died, including more than 200 World War I veterans working on an overseas highway linking the Keys.
Other storms have been deadlier. The 1900 Galveston hurricane in Texas was the worst, killing more than 10,000 people. The 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane was Florida’s most devastating, wiping out more than 2,500 people. But the Labor Day hurricane in the Keys was more powerful.
When John Platero, an Associated Press reporter, wrote a story about the hurricane in 1985 on its 50th anniversary, he found one 67-year-old Keys resident named Bernard Russell. The man’s cousin had been found 40 miles from their home town, “still holding her baby in her arms,” he said.
What still bothered Russell 50 years later?
People who don’t take hurricanes seriously.
“The most foolish thing is to have a hurricane party,” he said. “Only an idiot would have one.”