Jessica Weinkle

science, risk, politics... and society

Notes on the damage from the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane

Below is an excerpt from the Monthly Weather Review report on the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a category 4 storm.  As the storm made landfall in Florida, the report estimates that Miami was at the northern edge of the eye.  The excerpt is from R.W. Gray the official in charge of the National Weather Bureau station at the time of the storm.  

The storm tide on the Miami side of Biscayne Bay was approximately eight feet, and reports indicate a similar tide at Miami Beach. The water front of Miami was flooded for two to three blocks back from the bay, and low parts of the city near the Miami River were also flooded. After the storm, the entire bay front section of Miami was strewn with boats ranging in size from small pleasure craft to large schooners. Some of the boats had been carried more than two blocks from the bay. Water rose in hotels and residences near the bay to a depth of three to five feet. Miami Beach was entirely inundated, and, at the height of the tide, the ocean extended to Miami, three and one-half miles across Biscayne Bay. All streets near the ocean at Miami Beach were covered with sand to a depth of several feet, and in some places automobiles were entirely covered. The foundations of some buildings were washed out, allowing the buildings to collapse. The storm tide occurred with the shift of the wind to the east and southeast, following the arrival of the center of the storm. In the Miami River, the tide came in the form of a bore that left a mass of wreckage from the boats that had sought safe anchorage.

The intensity of the storm and the wreckage that it left cannot be adequately described. The continuous roar of the wind; the crash of falling buildings, flying debris, and plate glass; the shriek of fire apparatus and ambulances that rendered assistance until the streets became impassable; the terrifically driven rain that came in sheets as dense as fog; the electric flashes from live wires have left the memory of a fearful night in the minds of the many thousands that were in the storm area.