The Category 5 1935 Labor Day Hurricane is still the most powerful storm ever to strike North America. While the killer hurricane accounted for approximately 500 fatalities, the number could have been significantly higher had it not been a holiday weekend.
Fortunately, some number of the WWI veterans sent to the Upper Keys (not those building the Overseas Highway) to begin construction on a series of solid bridges capable of replacing the automobile ferries operating between Lower Matecumbe and No Name keys, had traveled to Miami or Key West to celebrate the holiday. The 1935 hurricane was also as tightly wound as the string around a spinning top. As horrors occurred in the Upper Keys during the night of that Sept. 2 event that brought 185-mph sustained winds and 18 feet of tidal surge, according to Weather Bureau documents, “Monday, September 2, 10 p.m.: Key West reported 81 degrees. Winds out of the northwest at 34 mph. Hurricane warnings north of Everglades to Punta Gorda. Tropical disturbance of full hurricane intensity but rather small diameter central 8 p.m. near Matecumbe Key moving northwestward accompanied by shifting gales and hurricane winds near center.”