The 11 Worst Hurricanes
For many South Floridians, the big question during hurricane season is: What’s it like? Every storm is different, but one way to answer that question is to explore hurricane history. Here you’ll find profiles of storms that South Florida will never forget. For each storm, we’ve gathered storm data, photos and the front page of the Fort Lauderdale News or Sun-Sentinel, from which we’ve reproduced a news article on the storm.
1919 – Key West
Key West was hit by the most powerful hurricane in its history on Sept. 10, 1919. It was the only hurricane to form in the Atlantic that year. The storm killed more than 800 people before it was done — the exact total will never be known.
September 19, 1993
1926 Miami: The blow that broke the boom
The 1926 storm was described by the U.S. Weather Bureau in Miami as “probably the most destructive hurricane ever to strike the United States.” It hit Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Hollywood, Hallandale and Miami. The death toll is estimated to be from 325 to perhaps as many as 800. No storm in previous history had done as much property damage.
September 11, 1988
1928 – Okeechobee
When the hurricane roared ashore at Palm Beach September 16, 1928, many coastal residents were prepared. But inland, along Lake Okeechobee, few conceived the disaster that was brewing. The storm struck first in Puerto Rico, killing 1,000 people, then hit Florida with 125 mph winds. Forty miles west of the coast, rain filled Lake Okeechobee to the brim and the dikes crumbled. Water rushed onto the swampy farmland, and homes and people were swept away. Almost 2,000 people perished.
1935 – The Florida Keys
The Labor Day storm was a category 5 hurricane that killed 408 people in the Florida Keys. People caught in the open were blasted by sand with such force that it stripped away their clothing.
1960 – Hurricane Donna
After swiping the Florida Keys and striking land near Fort Myers on Sept. 10, ‘Deadly Donna’ did not travel along the usual path that storms of her magnitude usually take.
1964 – Hurricane Cleo
Hurricane Cleo blasted Key Biscayne and then moved north along the state’s coastline, following State Road 7 and passing over Miami, Opa-locka, West Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale.
1965 – Hurricane Betsy
Hurricane Betsy was building strength; it looked like it was aiming for South Carolina, posing no threat to South Florida. But on Saturday, Sept. 4, the storm whirled to a stop, about 350 miles east of Jacksonville. When Betsy started moving again on Sunday, she had changed directions. The storm plowed through the Bahamas Monday night, then mauled South Florida a day later.
1992 – Hurricane Andrew
For 27 years, South Florida had been spared a severe hurricane. Then Andrew arrived, the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Andrew wrecked more property than Hugo, Agnes and Betsy combined, with damages estimated at $25 billion. Twenty-three died.
2004 – Hurricane Frances
Hurricane Frances, a sluggish and super-sized storm, may leave as its legacy a singular image: The entire state of Florida, 435 miles from Tallahassee to Key West, enveloped in rain and wind.
2004 – Hurricane Jeanne
Hurricane Jeanne pushed across Florida, launching leftover storm debris, tearing apart weakened buildings, cutting power for millions, and leaving the nation’s fourth most populous state dazed by relentless pounding from four hurricanes in six weeks. At least six people died during and after the storm.
2005 – Hurricane Wilma
Hurricane Wilma clobbered South Florida on Monday, October 24, 2005, with surprising strength, leaving the entire region damaged, dark and startled by the ferocity of a storm that many hadn’t taken seriously enough.