“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Islamadora in Monroe County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)

The 1935 Hurricane

The 1935 Hurricane Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, September 11, 2014
1. The 1935 Hurricane Marker
Inscription.  The Florida Keys and South Florida residents are always aware of the danger and possibility of a tropical storm or hurricane striking the area from June through October of each year. They had been through hurricanes many times in the 50 years preceding the Labor Day Storm on September 2, 1935. This storm proved to be different. It was much more powerful, concentrated, and treacherous. The first advisory was given at 1:00 pm on Saturday, August 31, 1935, by the weather bureau, stating that a storm had formed near Long Island in the Bahamas.

'Tropical disturbance of small diameter but considerable intensity arranged by strong shifting winds probably gales near center caution advised southeastern Bahamas moving in a westerly direction 8 mph'

The next advisory was at 3:30 pm and read the same as the earlier one. At 9:30 pm that same day it read:

'Probable gale force near center storm warnings ordered Ft. Pierce to Miami'

The storm was now 450 miles from the Keys.

On Sunday at 9:30 am, September 1, the advisory read:

'Winds of hurricane force small area near center will pass through
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Florida straits tonight or Monday. Caution advised vessels in path storm warnings Ft. Pierce south to Ft. Myers. Moving west 8 mph'

On Sunday at 4:00 pm the advisory was about the same. The 9:30 pm advisory issued the same warning but noted the storm would pass through the Florida straits in the next 36 hours, probably south of Key West. It is now 26 degrees east of Havana moving west.

Monday, Labor Day, September 2, 1:30 pm.

'Hurricane warning ordered for Key West. Tropical disturbance about latitude 23.20 longitude 80.15 moving slowly westward will be attended by winds of hurricane force in FL straits'

At 4:30 pm on Monday, the hurricane was moving northwest towards the Keys, warning Key West and the town of Everglades City. The last advisory at 7pm:

'Hurricane warnings ordered north of Key Largo to Palm Beach. Tropical disturbance intensity approaching Matecumbe Keys'

The greatest hurricane ever at that time struck the Islamorada area at 8:30 pm, just 1 hour and 23 minutes after the last advisory.

The first report of hurricane damage came from the S.S. Dixie, a steamship of the Southern Pacific Lines. The Dixie was caught in the storm as it headed for port in Miami at 8:12 pm Monday. The ship hit French Reef off Key Largo Pennekamp Park, and an S.O.S. was sent at 8:16 pm. This was a harrowing experience
The 1935 Hurricane Markers behind the monument image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, September 11, 2014
2. The 1935 Hurricane Markers behind the monument
for the 231 passengers and 122 members of the crew. Captain E.W. Sundstrom told of the waves breaking over the ship's bridge which was 55 feet above the waterline. On Tuesday the Coast Guard started taking the passengers to Miami; they had to be lowered by lines to the rescue boats. The last of the crew was not removed until Thursday.

September 2, 1935, was Labor Day. There were almost 600 veterans of World War I in the Matecumbe area working on government relief programs building bridges to replace ferries and a schoolhouse from stone quarries on Plantation Key. With the hurricane approaching, a train was ordered at 1:30 pm to take these veterans and others to the mainland. The train was held up by a bridge being opened up for boat traffic. At Homestead, the engine was moved to the other end of the train, which took time. But more trouble was yet to come. On Windley Key, the train became entangled in a loose cable which had torn free from a crane at the quarry, and tree limbs had to be removed. This took another hour and 10 minutes. By this time, the engineer and crew could only guess where they were because of the high winds and intense rains. The engine went just past the station and tried to back up, but the air brakes were jammed. The crew started to locate the trouble-two cars had blown off the track. They rushed back to the engine, but by then, the water was almost
Hurricane Monument. Marker is located behind. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, September 11, 2014
3. Hurricane Monument. Marker is located behind.
waist deep. The storm surge put out the fire in the engine and turned all cars over except the engine and tender, some several hundred feet from the track.

The emergency train arrived at the Islamorada station at 8:08 pm just 15 minutes before the hurricane hit at 8:23 pm, and with it came the 18-foot storm surge and 200-mph winds. The lowest barometer reading ever registered in this hemisphere was 26.35. Parts of a few buildings were all that was left in Islamorada. Almost 500 people died.

The hurricane monument at mile-marker 81.5 contains the remains of nearly 300 people who died in the storm. The piers in the bay at mile-marker 73 in channel 2 also serve as a memorial to those who lost their lives.

Some entire families were almost wiped out. The Russell family, with over 50 members, was reduced to 11. Many bodies were never found; some were in trees or even on the mainland at Cape Sable and on islands between there and the Matecumbes.

Those who survived went to the Rustic Inn or what was left of it, looking for other survivors. The Rustic Inn is today's Green Turtle Inn.
Erected by Irving and Jeane Eyster.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesDisasters. A significant historical date for this entry is September 2, 1935.
Location. 24° 55.032′ 
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N, 80° 38.156′ W. Marker is in Islamadora, Florida, in Monroe County. Marker can be reached from Old Highway north of Johnston Road, on the left when traveling north. Marker is located behind the stone Hurricane Monument. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 81831 Old Hwy, Islamorada FL 33036, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Hurricane Monument (here, next to this marker); The Florida Keys Memorial (a few steps from this marker); The Sweeting House (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Hurricane Houses (about 500 feet away); Pioneer Cemetery (approx. 0.2 miles away); Green Turtle Inn (approx. half a mile away); Islamorada Baptist Church (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Storm that Still Howls (approx. 0.9 miles away).
Also see . . .  1935 Labor Day hurricane. Wikipedia (Submitted on June 17, 2020.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 22, 2020. It was originally submitted on June 17, 2020, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida. This page has been viewed 300 times since then and 34 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 16, 2020, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 23, 2024