Eric's Reviews > Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935

Storm of the Century by Willie Drye
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's review
Apr 06, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: books-i-own, american-history, history, modern-history, natural-disaster, non-fiction
Read from March 30 to April 05, 2014

This is an excellent account of the most powerful hurricane to have hit the United States. This was one monster storm, awing even the long-time FL residents who had lived through previous bad storms. The author does a nice job of setting the scene by introducing the characters and recounting what they did to prepare for the storm.

The description of the storm itself and its aftermath are especially vivid and riveting. We're talking wind speeds around 150 to 200 mph, strong enough to lift grown men and send them flying. Hundreds died.

What made the death toll worse was the presence of WW1 veterans who had been sent to FL by the FDR administration to help build a highway along the full length of the Keys. These vets had been camped out in D.C. since the Hoover presidency, protesting in favor of a bill to speed up a payment due to all WWW1 vets. FDR just wanted them gone, without making it look like he just wanted them gone. Florida needed workers for their highway, so that was that. Give them a job and steady pay, and far, far away from DC. Problem solved.

Except that their work camps, where they lived, were awful and totally inadequate to weather such a storm. On top of that, the camp admins were lax in preparing any sort of serious evacuation plan. As a result, these vets were left wholly to themselves, with lousy shelter, during a Category 5 hurricane.

The end of the book talks about the fallout from the storm. It covers the survivors trying to get their lives back together, and the political ramifications with the veterans. There were investigations, only two of which were of any use, and a congressional hearing chaired by a powerful Democrat whose primary goal was whitewashing the whole affair to avoid FDR receiving any blame and thus risking his reelection. Pretty pathetic, actually.

All in all, a great book.

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Reading Progress

03/30/2014 marked as: currently-reading
04/06/2014 marked as: read

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