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Labor Day Hurricane 1935

Florida Keys estuary constriction

On Labor Day, September 2, 1935, a small but powerful hurricane (tropical cyclone) struck the Florida Keys, killing hundreds of people. This hurricane was recorded in weather records as the “Labor Day 1935 Hurricane”.

This report reviews the role of “causeways” (dikes and viaducts) in the 1935 Hurricane. We also cover modern bridge construction to use instead of causeways in estuaries.

Figure 1. Storm track of the Labor Day Hurricane 1935, as reported then.

The Florida Keys are a chain of islands south and west of Miami, separating the Atlantic Ocean from Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Florida Keys (geology map).

The Atlantic Ocean is to the south and east of the Florida Keys.

Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are to the north and west of the Keys. Florida Bay is an estuary that drains water from the Florida mainland (which is to the north of Florida Bay).

During this hurricane, a storm surge 6 meters high (18–20 feet) blew water from the Atlantic Ocean over the Keys into Florida Bay. Outdated causeways (dikes and viaducts), which are still in place today, constricted the subsequent ebb current (prevented water from flowing back out to the ocean). Constricting the ebb current caused storm damage from hydraulic head water pressure.

This type of ebb current constriction damage is likely to happen again in the same estuary, and in other estuaries with similar causeway construction. The following book chapter in Coastal Hazards explains that this type of estuary constriction (tidal prism reduction) from human infrastructure is preventable by using long small-footprint bridges instead of dikes and viaducts:

Nicholas K. Coch, “Anthropogenic Amplification of Storm Surge Damage in the 1935 ‘Labor Day’ Hurricane” (Ch. 8 in Coastal Hazards, Charles W. Finkl editor, Springer 2013), DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5234-4_8.

“To predict what may happen when a major hurricane hits an area where the tidal prism has been greatly reduced we can apply the lessons of the 1935 storm”
Coch, in Coastal Hazards, p. 212

Contents of This Report
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Page 7 : 
Introduction (this page)
Indian Key waterway
New Bridges
Extra Notes

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Tuesday, 24-Oct-2017 11:00:49 GMT