The 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane

In mid-September 1928 one of the worst hurricanes in United States history ravaged the Gulf Coast. The cyclone travelled across Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas before finally reaching Florida. Even before it hit the Florida coast, the hurricane had already killed between 300 to 1,000 people, injuring thousands more. Unstoppable, it crossed over the coast, through West Palm Beach with winds racing up to 145 miles per hour. The worst hit region, however, was Lake Okeechobee, an area used for cropland and farming. Even though a 5 foot dike had been built to protect the land, it was no match for the gusting winds of the Okeechobee hurricane. The surroundings became overwhelmed with water, causing many migrant workers and field hands to drown. In the end, the death toll ranged from 2,000 to 3,000 dead, so high that the bodies had to be burned instead of buried as they soon began to decompose. More than 3,000 people had been injured and 800,000 remained homeless due to the devastating effects of the hurricane.

Contributed by Kimberly Kuxhause
Course: Modern Global Environmental History
Instructor: Dr. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg
University of Wisconsin–Madison, U.S.

Further Readings: 
  • Fraser, Walter J., Jr. Lowcountry Hurricanes: Three Centuries of Storms at Sea and Ashore. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006.
  • Pfost, Russell L. "Reassessing the Impact of Two Historical Florida Hurricanes." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 84, no. 10 (2003): 1367–72.