Cover image for Storm of the century : the Labor Day hurricane of 1935
Storm of the century : the Labor Day hurricane of 1935
Drye, Willie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, [2002]

Physical Description:
326 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F317.M7 D79 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



On Labor Day, 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, the fiercest hurricane in the history of the United States tore through the Florida Keys. In the heart of its fury lay a group of down-and-out World War I veterans who had been sent to the Keys on a federally sponsored work project. Living in hastily built shacks just yards from the Atlantic Ocean, the men were completely unprepared for the 200-mile-per-hour winds and massive waves that would assail them on the night of September 2, 1935. In "Storm of the Century, journalist Willie Drye creates a vivid account of the storm' s rampage. DryeStorm of the Century is a haunting tale of the devastating power of nature and politics. Praise for "Storm of the Century: " Engrossing....Vividly captures the hurricane' s monstrous energy." "--Kirkus Reviews " A stirring tale of nature' s power and an expose of government ineptitude....Compelling reading." "--BookPage

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The Labor Day hurricane of 1935, which ravaged the Florida Keys, was the most devastating hurricane to ever hit the U.S. In the Keys at the time were hundreds of World War I veterans, sent to build bridges as part of Roosevelt's New Deal program to provide government-funded work for those left destitute by the Depression. The makeshift work camps were totally destroyed by the winds and storm surge, killing hundreds of workers who, through miscommunication or carelessness, were not evacuated by the federal agencies overseeing the work programs. With extensive depth, Drye covers the political fallout afterwards and the inquiries into the way the Roosevelt administration handled the crisis. Impressively, this account does not take the easy stance of vilifying those in charge but instead portrays them as all-too-human and naive about a hurricane's destructive potential. Drye tells many of the victims' and survivors' stories in painful detail, describing tragedy and danger scarcely imaginable. A powerful book that will leave a lasting impression on every reader. --Gavin Quinn

Publisher's Weekly Review

On Labor Day in 1935, a hurricane that produced the record low barometric pressure reading of 26.35 inches hit Florida's upper Keys, destroying virtually everything in its path. In his meticulously researched work, Drye gives a vivid, detailed account of the storm's approach and impact when it made landfall. Drye was drawn to the story of the unnamed hurricane not only because of its intensity, but also because it killed nearly 260 World War I veterans who were building a highway as part of a federal construction program. Living in flimsy huts built in low-lying areas, the veterans' only chance to survive the storm was evacuation, a move officials were too slow to order. The first two-thirds of the book, which includes a terrific description of the Keys around the turn of the century (when Key West was Florida's largest city), is especially gripping, punctuated with first-hand survivor accounts of the storm's fury. Responsibility for the deaths of the veterans became a political football, and the blatantly partisan investigation that ensued will have a timeless resonance for followers of American politics. But Drye overreaches when he suggests that full disclosure about the disaster could have caused problems for FDR's reelection bid; the author is on far safer ground as a weather historian than as a political commentator. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologue: Sunday, September 1, 1935p. 1
A Remote Paradisep. 15
Forgotten Menp. 39
A Wind Stirs in the Atlanticp. 79
It's Blowing Like Hell Down Herep. 120
In the Heft of the Hurricanep. 143
A Terrible Sunrisep. 170
Just a Catastrophep. 180
An Act of Godp. 202
Regret to Inform Youp. 228
For the Recordp. 258
Forgotten Stormp. 289
Epilogue: Next Time It'll Be Worsep. 309