1926 Miami hurricane

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1926 Great Miami Hurricane
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Miami beach2.jpg
Miami Beach after the 1926 Miami Hurricane
Formed September 11, 1926 (1926-09-11)
Dissipated September 22, 1926 (1926-09-23)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained: 150 mph (240 km/h)
Lowest pressure 930 mbar (hPa); 27.46 inHg
Fatalities 373[1]
Damage $100 million (1926 USD)
Areas affected Bahamas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
Part of the 1926 Atlantic hurricane season

The 1926 Miami hurricane (or Great Miami Hurricane) was a Category 4 hurricane that devastated Miami in September 1926. The storm also particularly damaged Sanibel Island and the Florida Panhandle, the U.S. state of Alabama, and the Bahamas. The storm's enormous regional economic impact helped end the Florida land boom of the 1920s and pushed the region on an early start into the Great Depression.

Meteorological history[edit]

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale

The Cape Verde-type hurricane formed on September 10. Moving west-northwest while traversing the tropical Atlantic, the storm later passed near St. Kitts on September 14. By September 17 it was battering the Bahamas, impacting the Turks and Caicos Islands with winds estimated at 150 mph (240 km/h).[2] Then, in the early morning hours of September 18, it made landfall just south of Miami between Coral Gables and South Miami as a devastating Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The storm crossed the peninsula south of Lake Okeechobee, entered the Gulf of Mexico, and made another landfall near Mobile, Alabama as a Category 3 hurricane on September 20 before hooking westward along coastal Alabama and Mississippi, eventually dissipating on September 22 after moving inland over Louisiana.


Remains of a bridge at Baker's Haulover Inlet.

In Florida, winds on the ground were reported around 145 mph (233 km/h) and the pressure measured at 930 mbar (27.46 inHg) — though all such data is suspect. Most of the coastal inhabitants had not evacuated, partly because of short warning (a hurricane warning was issued just a few hours before landfall) and partly because the "young" city's population knew little about the danger a major hurricane posed. A 15-foot (4.6 m) storm surge inundated the area, causing massive property damage and some fatalities. As the eye of the hurricane crossed over Miami Beach and downtown Miami, many people believed the storm had passed. Some tried to leave the barrier islands, only to be swept off the bridges by the rear eyewall. "The lull lasted 35 minutes, and during that time the streets of the city became crowded with people," wrote Richard Gray, the local weather chief. "As a result, many lives were lost during the second phase of the storm."[3]

This storm total rainfall graphic covers rainfall from September 17-21, 1926

Inland, Lake Okeechobee experienced a high storm surge that broke a portion of the dikes, flooding the town of Moore Haven and killing many. This was just a prelude to the deadly 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, which would cause a massive number of fatalities estimated at 2,500 around the lake.

Coastal regions between Mobile and Pensacola, Florida also suffered heavy damage from wind, rain, and storm surge. Rainfall maximized at Bay Minette, Alabama where 18.5 inches (470 mm) fell.[4] According to the Red Cross there were 373 fatalities. Other estimates vary, since there were a large number of people listed as "missing". Between 25,000 and 50,000 people were left homeless, mostly in the Miami area.

Costliest U.S. Atlantic hurricanes 1900–2010
Total estimated property damage, adjusted for wealth normalization[5][6]
Rank Hurricane Season Cost (2010 USD)
1 "Miami" 1926 $164.8 billion
2 Katrina 2005 $113.4 billion
3 "Galveston" 1900 $104.3 billion
4 "Galveston" 1915 $ 71.3 billion
5 Andrew 1992 $ 58.5 billion
6 "New England" 1938 $ 41.1 billion
7 "Cuba–Florida" 1944 $ 40.6 billion
8 "Okeechobee" 1928 $ 35.2 billion
9 Ike 2008 $ 29.5 billion
10 Donna 1960 $ 28.1 billion
Main article: List of costliest Atlantic hurricanes

The damage from the storm was immense; few buildings in Miami or Miami Beach were left intact. The Fulford–Miami Speedway in North Miami Beach was destroyed by the storm.[7] The toll for the storm was $100 million ($1.33 billion 2014 USD). It is estimated that if an identical storm hit in the year 2005, with modern development and prices, the storm would have caused $140–157 billion in damage.[5][8] After the hurricane, the Great Depression started in South Florida, slowing recovery.

In response to the widespread destruction of buildings on Miami Beach, John J. Farrey was appointed chief building, plumbing and electrical inspector. He initiated and enforced the first building code in the United States, which more than 5000 US cities duplicated.[9]


The University of Miami, located in Coral Gables, had been founded in 1925 and opened its doors for the first time just days after the hurricane passed. The university's athletic teams were nicknamed the Hurricanes in memory of this catastrophe. The school's mascot is Sebastian, an ibis. The ibis is a small white bird that can be seen around south Florida and especially on the UM campus. An ibis was selected to represent the Hurricanes because of folklore in which it is typically the last bird to leave before a hurricane strikes and the first to return once it's gone.[10]

Several events, including the sinking of a ship in the Miami harbor, and a Florida East Coast railway embargo before the storm that weakened the boom. However, the storm is considered the final blow to end the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Thousands of newcomers to Florida left the state and cleared their bank accounts, leaving many banks to the brink of bankruptcy.[11]:295 As a result, the Great Depression of 1929 did not make a great impact to Florida unlike the rest of the country.[11]:298 It took until the 1940s before Miami recovered economic wise.[11]:324

Panoramic view of Miami after the hurricane, wryly titled "Miami's New Drydock" ; September 18, 1926.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pfost, R. L. (2003). "Reassessing the Impact of Two Historical Florida Hurricanes". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 84 (10): 1367–1372. doi:10.1175/BAMS-84-10-1367.  edit
  2. ^ NOAA Hurricane History
  3. ^ Melzer, Martin (2006-09-17). "On the 80th Anniversary of Disastrous 1926 Hurricane, Forecasters Sound the Alarm: It Will Happen Again". Miami Herald. 
  4. ^ United States Corp of Engineers (1945). Storm Total Rainfall In The United States. War Department. p. SA 4-23. 
  5. ^ a b Pielke, Roger A., Jr.; et al. (2008). "Normalized Hurricane Damage in the United States: 1900–2005" (PDF). Natural Hazards Review 9 (1): 29–42. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1527-6988(2008)9:1(29). Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Blake, Eric S.; Landsea, Christopher W.; Gibney, Ethan J. (2011). "The Deadliest, Costliest, and the most intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (and other frequently requested hurricane facts)". NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS NHC-6. 
  7. ^ "Fulford-Miami Speedway - Post Hurricane". Getty Images. 1927-01-11. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 
  8. ^ Malmstadt, Jill; Scheitlin, Kelsey; Elsner, James (2009). "Florida Hurricanes and Damage Costs". Southeastern Geographer 49 (2): 108–131. doi:10.1353/sgo.0.0045.  edit
  9. ^ Great Floridians 2000 Project
  10. ^ "Traditions :: University of Miami". Archived from the original on 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  11. ^ a b c Gannon, Michael (2012). The New History of Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-1415-9. 

External links[edit]