1928 Hurricane memorial set for Friday; annual event recalls hundreds of lives lost

PAHOKEE — The City of Pahokee invites the public to join in its annual commemorative ceremony to honor and remember the lives lost in the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928. This year, the 90th anniversary of that deadly storm, the event is set for 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Sept. 14, at Port Mayaca Memorial Gardens, 23900 S.W. Kanner Highway (State Road 76).

Pahokee’s remembrance ceremony for victims of the Great Miami Hurricane of 1928 is an annual event at Port Mayaca Memorial Gardens on Southwest Kanner Highway, but last year Hurricane Irma interfered. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of City of Pahokee.

Last year’s memorial event was postponed indefinitely — and eventually canceled altogether — because Hurricane Irma picked that very week to threaten the Florida peninsula, and, as no one needs to be reminded, it ended up making several landfalls in the state, beginning on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, at Cudjoe Key.

The Okeechobee Hurricane, which formed as a classic Cape Verde tropical cyclone on Sept. 6 that year as the only major hurricane among three in 1928, devastated the Glades region of Palm Beach County as well as most of the region around Lake Okeechobee on Sept. 16-17. It resulted in the lake itself overflowing its banks and flooding hundreds of square miles of South Florida to as high as 20 feet. Winds were estimated to have reached 160 miles per hour in Canal Point, and the storm’s eye was 25 miles wide at landfall in West Palm Beach, resulting in reported calm at Lake O for a full half-hour as the eye passed overhead.

At the time, it was the second most deadly natural catastrophe in United States history, killing 312 people in Puerto Rico alone and drowning at least 2,500 in Florida. It is the main reason that the present-day Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed during the 1930s around the lake; when the hurricane hit, Lake Okeechobee had been contained by a small earthen dike that soon was breached by the storm surge, two years after the same thing had happened in the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926.

Each year, the special event put on by Pahokee city officials serves to memorialize the more than 1,600 storm victims buried in designated areas of the Port Mayaca Memorial Gardens, which, though well outside the city limits, is owned and operated by the City of Pahokee.

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