Top 4 Most Devastating Florida Hurricanes in History

florida hurricanes

Flood in the Belle Glade area after the 1928 storm. (Historical Society of Palm Beach)

Being prepared for a disaster by having a home standby generator can make a world of difference. For starters, a standby unit means you don’t have to rely on gas (which could be in short supply after a major natural disaster) and you don’t have to head outside to refill the unit during or after the storm.

Unfortunately, some of the worst Florida hurricanes to ever hit the region happened long ago, before emergency power systems, generators and other helpful devices were invented.

Here’s a breakdown of the five worst hurricanes in the history of Florida.

Key West, 1919

Although Key West has been struck by hurricanes numerous times, none have been as devastating as the one that landed there in 1919.The hurricane’s death toll could be as high as 800 (the exact numbers are unknown), with many of those deaths happening onboard ships that were sailing in the surrounding waters.

One of the reasons for the massive damage caused by this hurricane was how long the storm lasted. Although the strongest winds (110 mph) only lasted for a few hours, the storm lingered over South Florida for 38 hours. The sustained 39 mph winds made evacuation difficult and might have affected how many lives were lost in the storm.

After striking Florida, the storm then continued on to Corpus Christi, Texas, becoming the first hurricane ever to hit the city directly.

Okeechobee, 1928

The most devastating hurricane in the history of Florida, Okeechobee killed more than 2,000 people and destroyed over 6,000 homes. That’s in addition to 2,000 other people who died when the hurricane struck the Caribbean, especially the islands of Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe. In Florida, the hurricane was particularly devastating because it struck farther inland, taking residents by surprise.

Aside from the destruction brought over by the 125 mph winds, Okeechobee also caused massive floods.The rain that came with the storm caused the Lake Okeechobee dikes to crumble, inundating the surrounding area.

The Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed in the lake after the hurricane to help control the movement of the water and prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again.

Labor Day, 1935

Known as the Labor Day Hurricane or the Florida Keys Hurricane, was a category 5 hurricane that struck the upper Florida Keys. The hurricane is still considered the “most intense landfalling U.S. hurricane,” with winds reaching 185 mph.

Over 400 people died during the storm, including 200 World War I veterans living in a local work camp. The hurricane derailed trains, washed away bridges, and completely destroyed the village of Islamorada. A storm surge almost 20 feet tall washed away entire area of the Florida Keys.

Andrew, 1992

Called “the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history,” Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in August of 1992. It caused over $25 billion in damage and hit the state with winds as strong as 177 mph.

Andrew caused a relatively low number of fatalities: 23 people. However, it left over 175,000 homeless and almost 1.5 million people without electricity for days. The hurricane also caused massive natural destruction, knocking down over 70,000 trees in the Everglades. Floods and heavy rain caused additional damage and required massive evacuations.

While installing a home standby generator will not necessarily keep you safe when Florida hurricanes hit, it can still be a great ally during the storm’s aftermath. Keep in mind that in many cases, people return to their homes after the storm has passed but before electric power is restored. Having a home generator means you’ll be able to cook, have access to warm water and feel safer during a moment of crisis.

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