Monday, September 17, 2012

1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane

84 years ago last night, September 16th-17th, 1928, a hurricane made landfall in south Florida. The eye made landfall near West Palm Beach and then moved right over Lake Okeechobee.

Thousands of migrant farm workers, mostly black, lived in the low areas near Lake Okeechobee. There was a 5 foot dike to keep the waves out during storms, but it was no match for the hurricane. The figure below details the area that completely flooded. The southern end flooded first; when the eye passed over the northern end that area flooded as well.

People living in the area had evacuated initially but the hurricane did not show up when predicted. They went home, a fatal mistake. Thousands perished, many bodies being washed into the Everglades where they were never found.

(click to enlarge)

The racism of the day dictated what happened next. The few coffins were given to bury white victims; the black victims were either burned or dumped in mass graves with no memorial markers. It was only in the last several years that markers were put up.

The Red Cross initially estimated the dead at 1,836 but because so many bodies were never found and the migrant population was not well documented, that number was probably much higher. In 2003 the death toll was revised to "at least" 2,500 to reflect that. This makes the 1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane the second-deadliest to make landfall in the U.S. (the greatest being the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 with a death toll of 8,000 - 12,000).

Further reading:

NOAA memorial page
Wikipedia article on hurricane
Article in St. Petersburg Times - interviews with survivors
Extensive blog post on Alvin's Weather Blog
Black Cloud: the Great Florida Hurricane of 1928

Saturday, September 15, 2012


[1963] U.S. Meteorologist Robert L. Smith checks over one of the radar operated weather tracking pieces of equipment in the U.S. Weather Bureau located in this northwest Florida coastal city [Apalachicola, FL]. This station is one of five that fringe the state. The equipment Mr. Smith is looking at is a radar operated camera that takes both still and movies of heavy weather disturbances up to 150 miles away. The picture at the right was made several years ago and shows a hurricane off the southeastern Atlantic coast.


The first Doppler-radar measurements of a tornado were made in 1958 by U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologists R. Smith and D. Holmes. They obtained a Doppler radar from the U.S. Navy, set it up in Wichita, Kansas, and then waited. Just over a year later, on June 10, the radar detected a tornado in El Dorado twenty-five miles away. What luck that a tornado happened to touch down within range of the first Doppler radar used for meteorological purposes! The likelihood of a tornado striking within thirty miles of a given location during a given spring is extremely small. Although at the time it was not possible to discriminate between approaching and receding velocities, the wind spectra obtained by this radar detected maximum velocities (that is, wind speeds in the line-of-sight direction) of 200 mph.

-Tornado Alley: Monster Storms of the Great Plains, 1999, Howard B. Bluestein, p. 12-13

Click to go to the PDF file of the entire study.

[Another publication citing my grandfather (for my family's interest): Flood of September 20-23, 1969 in the Gadsden County Area, Florida]

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Just a quick post to note that it is almost 9 AM and 65 degrees with 77% humidity outside! It's going to warm up, of course, but we should not have a heat index over 100 and we should also get some breeze today. Thank God! I know that summer is not over, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's SO nice to get a break.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 gone!!!

Right now the temperature is 97.9 with a heat index of 113. Ok, that's too hot. Just. Too. Hot. This morning I woke up, looked out at a nice, fresh-looking day with a breeze, and sitting in an air-conditioned house thought, "My, what a lovely fall day it looks!" On examination, the temperature was already over 80 and the air was soggy.

Enough already!!

It looks as if there's supposed to be a cold cool front coming in on Saturday and from Sunday on (at least as far as the forecast goes) the temperature should be much more moderate: highs from 75 to 81 and lows from 59 to the mid 60's. There's also supposed to be a breeze with that, mostly out of the north.

Oh, please...let it be true!!!

"Inside the Sun" [The Far Side - Gary Larson]