Hurricanes Do Hit the Florida Keys

I guess the worse of all the hurricanes to hit the Florida Keys was in 1935. It hit on Labor Day. The winds were over 200 miles per hour and this produced a tidal surge of 18'. The surge washed completely over the islands. It hit in the Upper Keys near Islamorada.

Miles of Flagler's Railroad Tracks were washed away. People were washed away as well. Over 600 people died. Most of them drown. I’ve been told that people were found washed all the way up to the Everglades. This means they floated all the way across Florida Bay.

Boat lift ripped apart from Wilma

In 1998 we had a bad storm in the Lower Keys and Key West. It was Hurricane Georges. It was a category 2 Hurricane.

In the Lower Keys we got the eye wall. This thing sat on us for hours. The local radio station on Big Pine Key kept its generator going and stayed on the air through the whole ordeal. All sorts of people were calling in scared to death.

The thing slowed down to a crawl when it got to us. I think it was moving like 2 to 4 miles an hour for hours. If I remember correctly it stopped moving for a while. It was just sitting and spinning. It threw a few tornadoes at us as well.

At just about ten in the morning it revved up. Just as it did, it started peeling the roof off this house that I’m in. The roof was tar and gravel and it was old. I was in here with my cats and a friend.

I heard this creaking noise, ran over to where it was and I could see daylight showing around the cover to the attic. I don’t know the words to describe the feeling the came over me at that moment. I knew I was doomed.

Labor Day Hurricane 1935 Florida Keys

The winds were picking up and gusting and the rain was getting harder. It didn’t take long for the sheet rock on the ceiling to begin to fall in. I stood under a door way to keep the falling debris from hitting my head.

As time went on and the Hurricane stalled, more roof was gone and more ceiling came down. This let more and more rain blow into the house.

Next came the 6 foot tide surge. My car was flooded by this.

At four in the afternoon I was able to leave this house and go to a neighbors with my cats and get dry. I got to tell you I was in shock, but didn’t know it at the time. This Hurricane destroyed everything I owned. The months to follow were nothing but hard labor. But, I did get this place back together again.

The last two years have been abnormally busy. We were bushed by 4 Hurricanes in 2004. They were Charley, Frances, Jean and Ivan. I had to put the shutters up for two of them. Their tracks were such that I didn’t have to board up for all of them.

Hurricane Debris Pile Florida Keys In 2005 we were again threatened by 4 Hurricanes. They were Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. I put shutters up for 3 of these. Katrina was not suppose to track near us. So no one bothered putting their shutters up. I woke up to everything in the yard and on the porch blowing all over the place. Some years we get a break from the storms. These are usually years when there's a large El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean.

This is a crazy time of year. The number of people living here full time during the summer is less than half of that in the winter. Most of us know each another. Everyone pulls together and helps their neighbors to get ready for the storms.

Bob and Sandy's Phoenix

The land isn't the only part of the Keys to take a pounding. The reef gets large pieces of coral broken off it. The fish taking cover under the reef get battered against the corals. The Queen Conchs were making a come back and now I can't find many of them. The backcountry flats get moved around. Some of them lose sand and other gain sand.

The Florida Keys are still a great place to live. We are all aware of the dangers from the Hurricanes. But the love of the lifestyle here out weighs the dangers from the storms. It might be a good idea to check and see if anything is out there right now.



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