Coffins Stacked Along the Bank of a Canal After the Hurricane of 1928, Belle Glade, Florida


Just two days before the second anniversary of the Great Miami Hurricane that wreaked havoc in South Florida, another powerful storm made landfall in the state. The Category 4 hurricane caused at least 1,500 deaths in the Caribbean before making landfall in Palm Beach County on September 16, 1928. The storm resulted in an estimated $25 million in damage along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, from Fort Pierce to Boca Raton. The greatest damage occurred inland, however, especially along the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee. As the hurricane passed over the large, shallow lake, intense winds pushed a wave of water over hastily-built farming communities. So devastating was the impact of the storm in this region that it became known as the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane. The destruction can largely be attributed to the drainage of the Everglades and its effects. In the decades before the storm, the state of Florida drained thousands of acres of wetlands in the northern Everglades. Commercial farming operations were established on the reclaimed land, and truckloads of migrant laborers were brought in to work the farms. Shoddily constructed homes and buildings accompanied the agricultural boom. These shortcomings were exposed during the hurricane of 1928. Estimates of the loss of life in the Lake Okeechobee region range from 1,800 to 3,500 people; at least 1,600 are buried in the Port Mayaca Cemetery alone. Because of the remoteness of the devastated area and the scope of the destruction, the true number of casualties will never be known. After touring the region after the hurricane, President Herbert Hoover initiated a project to build a massive levee to surround the lower half of Lake Okeechobee. The result was the Herbert Hoover Dike, measuring 85 miles (136.79 kilometers) long and 36 feet (10.97 meters) high. The dike held up during subsequent hurricanes in the 1940s.

Last updated: October 17, 2014