Eighty-seven years ago today America’s playground was turned into a “playground for the elements,” in the words of then City Manager C.A. Renshew, when a category four hurricane ripped through Miami.
The eye passed directly over downtown Miami on September 18, 1926, causing a confusing half-hour lull in which many residents emptied out into the streets thinking the storm was over, recalls the National Weather Service.
As the storm continued with 130 mph winds, a tidal wave swept across Miami Beach, through Biscayne Bay, and westward through the mainland — ending blocks west of Biscayne Boulevard, according to a 1926 front page of Miami Daily News.
Ships were strewn all over the Magic City, 372 people died, and over 6,000 injured. Property damage was estimated at $105 million, or about $100 billion in current dollars, according to NOAA.
With no satellite images to track the impending storm, the weather service had only the scattered reports from ships about the hurricane as it moved towards Florida.
It was only when barometers took a sudden dip at noon on September 17 that officials issued a hurricane warning.
The day after the disastrous storm, the City Manager issued a proclamation with a 6 p.m. curfew, drinking water availability, and a request for all men to volunteer for cleanup and police duty.
Oddly, he also ended the proclamation with this attempt at humor: “Capt. Frank Henning wishes to say that the man whose two-story garage is parked on top of his Cadillac sedan should please come and move it.”
Click below for images from 87 years ago when the Great Hurricane of 1926 had its way with Miami, images courtesy of the State Archives of Florida: