Hemingway’s Hurricane

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    A powerful late summer hurricane is tracked for several days before it makes landfall on a southern U.S. coastline. Inexplicably, government officials fail to set an evacuation plan in motion until it is too late. Those who are able escape, but the have-nots are left behind. Roaring ashore with 200 mph winds and a 22-foot storm surge, the storm overwhelms low-lying areas. Hundreds die.

    You might think I’m describing Hurricane Katrina, but I’m not. I’m talking about the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 that struck the Florida Keys seventy years to the week before Katrina. More than 250 of the 400-plus victims of that earlier storm were World War I veterans who had been sent to the Keys by the Roosevelt administration to build a highway to Key West. A relief train stood by in Miami to evacuate the men in the event of a hurricane’s approach, but by the time government officials called for it, it was too late.

    They were the forgotten members of the Lost Generation, traumatized veterans of the Great War who grasped for one last chance at redemption under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Six hundred of them were shuffled off to the Florida Keys to build a highway to Key West. On Labor Day weekend 1935, the most intense hurricane ever to strike the U.S. took aim on their flimsy shacks, and the two men responsible for evacuating the veterans from harm’s way waited too long.

    Rescue train at Islamorada in the wake of the hurricane. Only the locomotive survived, FEC 4-8-2 #447, The railroad did not.

    Rescue train at Islamorada in the wake of the hurricane. Only the locomotive survived, FEC 4-8-2 #447, The railroad did not.

    After the storm, Ernest Hemingway took his boat from his home in Key West to aid the veterans in the Upper Keys but he found few survivors on the wreckage. His public cries of outrage bound him forever to the storm.


    “Brilliantly and compellingly captures the events surrounding the 1935 storm, showing how human factors compounded the awful force of sky and sea.”-from the Foreword by John Rennie, Editor in Chief, Scientific American.

    Hemingway’s Hurricane describes a scenario tragically similar to the one surrounding Hurricane Katrina . . . little preparedness and no timely rescue for victims.”-The Sacramento Bee

    “Phil Scott does a favor with this book, reminding [us] that deadly storms aren’t a new event.”-Chicago Tribune

    “A timely topic and a compelling read.”-The Indianapolis Star

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