The Lake Okeechobee hurricane disaster of 1928 in South Florida remains the second- deadliest tropical cyclone in American history. The aftermath of the storm lingers until this day, as racial tensions between Blacks and whites in the region are still healing over the handling of the dead.
The storm formed off the West Coast of Africa on September 6 as a tropical depression before developing into a full-on storm towards the Caribbean. As it grew in strength, the storm smacked Guadeloupe and was responsible for 1,200 deaths.
As the storm tore through the Bahamas en route to making landfall in Florida, it went from a powerful Category 5 hurricane to a still-strong Category 4 on September 16. The storm hit West Palm Beach first, destroying farmlands, and lavish homes. But the the storm’s devastation was felt most in the Lake Okeechobee area.
The low-lying poor communities that surrounded the lake were made up of mostly Black migrant farm workers. The large lake was hit with a storm surge, which made it pour over a small damn. Waters rushed through the area, rising as high as 20 feet. As estimated in 2003, over 2,500 people perished in the floods, much higher than the 1,800 originally reported.