Back in the day: The Great Miami Hurricane

By | September 18th, 2010 | No Comments

Biscayne Boulevard after Great Miami Hurricane 1926

The devastating 1926 hurricane flung boats across the yet unfinished Biscayne Boulevard. — photo from "Miami: Then and Now," by Arva Moore Parks and Carolyn Klepser

If today’s 30 percent chance of rain is putting a crimp in your plans for a beach-volleyball round robin, realize that 84 years ago to the day the deadliest hurricane in Miami history, a category 4 storm known as the Big Blow, whirled through Miami Beach like God’s own dreidel of wrath.

Following a lighter storm that season, the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 (another moniker) took the city’s 30,000-plus residents by surprise when it crashed into Miami Beach at two o’clock in the morning on Sept. 18, 1926, just after the Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur ended. It had squeezed through the Gulf Stream at its narrowest point, and “Miami Beach was isolated in a sea of raving white water,” Florida author Marjorie Stoneman Douglas wrote.

Now, we’ve obviously had our fair share of hurricanes since 1926, and at this point Miamians know more or less how the whirling bastards behave. But 84 years ago, folks down here took the eye of the storm for the end of the storm, and, well, the results weren’t pretty.

Finally the storm ceased. Miamians who had boarded up their windows and doors unboarded them and stepped outside to assess the damage. Misinterpreting the calm, they didn’t realize they were stepping into the eye of the storm. Most casualties succumbed after the lull. During the hurricane’s second half, winds reached a terrifying 128 miles per hour, and rain drowned people who didn’t reach shelter in time.

Structural damage was stupefying. Utility poles hurtled through the air. Roofs were torn from buildings. Electricity and water were cut off. Even the beach seemed to shift; Collins Avenue was covered in sand, as were lobbies of prestigious oceanfront hotels. —, “The Hurricane of 1926

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