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Nicholas K. Coch
Monday November 28, 2011

On Labor Day, 1935, the most powerful hurricane in U.S. history devastated the middle part of the Florida Keys, where 500 WW1 veterans were building
U.S. 1. This Category 5 hurricane (155mph+) had surge levels of 18 feet, at least 20 feet of superposed wind-driven waves, the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in the United States, and wind gusts that exceeded 200 mph. The day before, the storm was only a category 1 hurricane in the Bahamas. In one day and 100 miles, it intensified into a Category 5 hurricane. The death of hundreds of veterans led to the only Congressional investigation of a natural disaster in U.S. History.
 Meteorology was a young science at the time and no one could account for the rapid hurricane intensification. However, some Keys natives (Conchs) suspected that the high surge levels had something to do with the construction of the Florida Oversea Railroad in the first decade of the 20th Century.
 A synthesis of archival material, original railroad architectural drawings, survivor interviews, meteorological data, and field studies has now been completed. We can now explain the surge dynamics and rapid intensification that occurred in the 1935 hurricane. The lessons from the 1935 hurricane are applied to the rapidly - growing Tampa-St. Petersburg Metropolitan Region and similar areas along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts.




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