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      Images of Florida Hurricanes, Early Twentieth Century

      Three major storms hit the Florida coast in the early part of the twentieth century. On September 27, 1906 Pensacola experienced the worst storm since the destruction of its colonial settlement on Santa Rosa Island in the mid-eighteenth century. Known as the "Great Hurricane," the storm struck shore in the early hours of the morning. At the time Pensacola was recovering from a yellow fever epidemic from the previous year and from a devastating fire that destroyed the city's business district. Reconstruction was still underway on the day the storm made landfall. Tides peaked at 10 feet above normal (a record high). Winds were reported to range from 83 to 94 mph. However, analysts consider this range too low, since monitoring stations lost their anemometers early in the storm, and could not measure wind velocity at the peak of the hurricane. Over 5000 houses were damaged and at least 3000 people were left homeless with a total of a 134 dead.

      On the morning of July 27, 1926, a Category 1 hurricane hit Palm Beach with winds of up to 90 mph. The storm, which had previously swept through Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Bahamas, hit the Florida coast along Jupiter Inlet, sweeping away boats, houses, docks and other marine property. It caused severe flooding throughout Palm Beach County before moving north through the peninsula to Georgia and Alabama. No deaths were reported but damages were estimated at $2.5 million in Florida and over $3 million for the United States.

      One of the greatest natural disasters ever to occur in the United States was the Category 4 hurricane of September 16, 1928 in South Florida. The storm killed 1,836 in Florida, mainly around Lake Okeechobee, as well as causing 1,575 deaths in the Caribbean. Referred to as “San Felipe” because it hit Puerto Rico on San Felipe Day, it did $50 million in damage on that island, with 300 fatalities, and 200,000 people left homeless. By the time the storm arrived in Florida winds were estimated at 150 mph. A combination of winds and rainfall pushed the normally placid waters of Lake Okeechobee over its dikes, with wave crests reaching as high as 15 feet. Once the waters broke the dikes they swept across surrounding farms and settlements, carrying away buildings, cars, and people caught in the flood.

      Source: Florida's Hurricane History. Jay Barnes. University of North Carolina Press, 1998

      Image Scans and Design by Rikesh Thakrar

      1906 Pensacola Hurricane

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      1926 Palm Beach Hurricane

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      1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane

      Flooding and devastation around Okeechobee.
      One of the canteens and soup kitchens in the Everglades area serving food to refugees.
      Source: Fred Williamson Collection and U.F. Archives, Photos of the Agricultural Extension Service.

      Recovery and liming of bodies. A cremation pyre. The search and burial party near Pahokee, in the Everglades area, after the storm. Source: U.F. Archives, Photos of the Agricultural Extension Service, and Fred Williamson Collection, Florida Miscellaneous Manuscripts.

      Left: Showing the effect of the wind and water against unprotected and also protected shore line on ocean; Left Center: Barge at South Bay Locks on which 140 persons took refuge and were saved; Right Center: Fifteen bodies assembled in the Everglades area for cremation; Right: Showing complete destruction of settlers' homes near Belle Glade. Source: Fred Williamson Collection.

      Left: Center section of the Town of Belle Glade, showing up-turned automobile and roofs completely removed; Center: Hauling bodies from the Everglades area for burial; Right: Pulling body from Lake Okeechobee preparatory to cremation. Source: Fred Williamson Collection.

      Left: American Legion relief unit at work cremating bodies at South Bay; Center: Wreckage in Pahokee, in the Everglades area; Right: Showing crops in the Everglades area four months after the hurricane. Source: Fred Williamson Collection.

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