After Great Hurricane of 1896


This image shows the devastation caused by the Great Hurricane of 1896 that struck the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. With its 2,200-kilometer coastline, Florida is the U.S. state most vulnerable to these storms. More than 450 recorded tropical storms and hurricanes have reached its shores since European exploration began. The hurricane of September 1896 destroyed most of the residential area of the town of Cedar Key on the upper west coast of the Florida peninsula, killing dozens of residents and destroying most of Cedar Key’s industries. Before making landfall, the storm and its tidal surge overwhelmed more than 100 sponging boats, killing untold numbers of crewmen. The hurricane then crossed the peninsula, leaving a wide swath of destruction until it reached the Atlantic coast at Fernandina, before heading north to Virginia. This image shows survivors, both white and black, in Fernandina, standing atop mounds of rubble, still seemingly shocked by the destruction. Other famous storms in Florida history include the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston described the devastating flood waters of the 1928 hurricane, which killed more than 2,000 people, mostly migrant farm workers. The 1935 hurricane took the lives of more than 350 World War I veterans working on construction projects in the Florida Keys.

Last updated: September 8, 2014