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This week in history: Florida’s deadliest hurricane

On Sept. 16, 1928, the storm that came to be known as the Okeechobee hurricane came ashore in central Palm Beach County with winds of at least 145 mph. As the storm crossed Lake Okeechobee, the 20-foot-high storm surge crashed through the low muck along the south and east shores, sweeping water out of Lake Okeechobee and over the towns of Belle Glade, Chosen, Pahokee, South Bay, and Bean City, killing at least 2,500 people.

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This photo taken in the aftermath of the 1928 hurricane shows the damage done to a cluster of Everglades scientific work stations in Belle Glade. (Photo courtesy of the University of Florida)

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The south shore of Lake Okeechobee after the 1928 hurricane (Photo provided to The Palm Beach Post)

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Scenes of West Palm Beach after the 1928 hurricane, from Palm Beach Hurricane—92 Views, 1928, American Autochrome Company, Chicago, IL. More photos from the autochrome series are available here.

The front pages of The Palm Beach Post from September 1928 describe the horror of the 1928 hurricane. Click on the images below to see larger images and to browse the 1928 newspapers.

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Posted in Flashback blog September 13, 2010 at 6:00 am.

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T.E.N. wins four Telly awards for historical documentaries

By Michelle Quigley

Two documentaries produced by The Education Network (T.E.N.) of the Palm Beach County School District have been awarded Tellys.

The documentary Laura Woodward: Visionary Artist won in the documentary, cultural and education categories. The 30-minute production tells the story of Laura Woodward, a landscape artist who used her paintings to persuade Henry Flagler to build a resort in Palm Beach in 1894.

The Hurricane of 1928 — documenting the deadly storm that slammed into Palm Beach County and roared inland to lift the water right out of Lake Okeechobee — also won in the education category.

You can watch Laura Woodward: Visionary Artist and The Hurricane of 1928 right here on HistoricPalmBeach.com.

In 2009 T.E.N. won an Emmy award for its Anywhere/Anytime science videos.

The Telly Awards are in their 31st year of honoring the best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, video and film productions, and works created for the Web.

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Drawing of Laura Woodward, painting under an umbrella amid a tropical landscape. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

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Posted in Flashback blog March 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm.

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Zora Neale Hurston, Jan. 7, 1891 – Jan. 28, 1960

A half century ago this week, a former maid who’d dabbled in writing was buried in a Fort Pierce pauper’s grave.

It’s only in the past few decades that Zora Neale Hurston earned the adulation she never got in life.

Hurston wrote with passion and poetry and humor about the joys and turmoils of blacks living and dying far beyond the main roads of central and south Florida.

“Miss Zora’’ rose to prominence, was gradually ostracized by her own people and died destitute in Fort Pierce, only to be reborn only as an artist can be — through her work.

She was raised in Eatonville, north of Orlando. It was America’s first all-black town when it was founded in 1887.

Her mother once said, “You jump at de sun.”

Her mother died and her father, a tenant farmer and pastor, handed her off to relatives. She was a maid, graduated high school, and went to Howard University in Washington.

She was 30 when she wrote her first story in 1921 but lied about her age by a decade, making her an undeserving prodigy. She moved to New York in 1925 and was swept up in the Harlem Renaissance.

Her career climaxed with 1937’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, a swirling trail of a woman’s journey to independence that climaxes with the Glades’ great 1928 hurricane.

But fame didn’t always translate to fortune; she never made $1,000 on a book and once was a secretary to novelist Fanny Hurst.

Two marriages failed.

Peers accused her of Uncle Tomism after she became a political conservative, decrying integration.

Her last novel, Seraph on the Suwannee, was published in 1948.

She was a maid, a substitute teacher, and a columnist for the black weekly Fort Pierce Chronicle.

She died broke in a Fort Pierce nursing home in 1960. Friends donated for her funeral.

In 1973, Alice Walker (The Color Purple) paid for a marker for her grave.

Eatonville’s Zora Neale Hurston Center was opened in 1987, a monument to the woman who prophesied: “When the consciousness we know as life ceases, I know that I shall still be part and parcel of the world.’’

Special thanks to Post staff writer Scott Eyman.

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The gravesite of Zora Neale Hurston at the Garden of Heavenly Rest Cemetery in Fort Pierce has a marker paid for by author Alice Walker. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

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Posted in Black Palm Beach Blog and Eliot Kleinberg January 28, 2010 at 9:43 am.

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A sister’s words on the storm aftermath

Readers: Last week we detailed Lake Worth resident Clara Waugh’s letter to her sister and memoir of the great Sept. 16, 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Here’s the rest:

“Dawn came at last and it showed us a mighty gloomy city, made gloomier by the drizzle that was falling. Fallen trees and pieces of structures blocked the streets everywhere.

“There naturally was a lack of organization in the local relief work, and it took most of the week for the actual tragedy of the Everglades to impress its horror upon us. Every truck brought injured and half-drowned people.

“Soon the work of making rough boxes started and a steam shovel dug trenches in the cemeteries at West Palm Beach and the last count showed that seven hundred boxes had been lowered. Scarcely any bodies showed marks — they were drowned.

“Mrs. Dale, a former “B” Street neighbor, has been living in Bay City, a community near the lake since last fall. They got up on the roof and by holding onto a wire they managed to be saved.

“Mrs. Dale called on me last week and she said that the waves dashed over their heads many times during the worst of the storm.

“They were the only ones saved in that community except the folks who heeded the storm warning and came to Lake Worth or West Palm Beach on Saturday.

“Most of the people who perished were colored laborers who had come to the lake region for the fall planting and to work for the sugar companies.

“Reconstruction is evident on every hand. The sun is shining, our electricity is on and our pump is pumping. The debris has been cleared away and everybody seems busy.

“P.S.: Sister, do you recall Shakespeare’s Tempest, and the note telling that it was written after the author heard our account of a hurricane in the Bahamas. I’m wondering if the immortal William would not have added a tragedy instead of a comedy to his writing had he lived to learn of the Glades disaster.”
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Clematis Street after the 1928 hurricane. A Western Union telegraph office can be seen to the right and the tall building on the left at the other end of the street is Anthony’s clothing store. (Photo provided to The Palm Beach Post)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg September 24, 2009 at 7:37 am.

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Sept. 16, 1928: Florida’s deadliest hurricane roars through Palm Beach County

“It woke up old Okeechobee, and the monster began to roll in his bed,” wrote Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The storm of 1928 came ashore in central Palm Beach County with winds of at least 145 mph. Then it did what most people don’t think about when it comes to hurricanes: It brought death inland. As the storm crossed Lake Okeechobee, the 20-foot-high storm surge crashed through the low muck along the south and east shores. When it finally turned northeast and away, at least 2,500 people had been killed. Some were never found.

Over the years, on the anniversary of the 1928 storm Eliot Kleinberg has featured stories about the storm in his Post Time column:

‘Everything Pointed Toward a Bad Wind’ recalls weathering the storm in downtown West Palm Beach.

1928 Hurricane Inspiration For Songs looks into the history of the song “Somebody Got Drowned.”

Memoir Recalls 1928 Hurricane and 1928 Storm Nearly Killed Family recount stories from a boy who lived at the north end of Lake Okeechobee.

We invite you to share your own stories and memories in the comments below.

Read more about the 1928 hurricane at PalmBeachPost.com and see The Hurricane of 1928 documentary produced by The Education Network right here on HistoricPalmBeach.com.

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This undated file photo taken in the aftermath of the 1928 hurricane shows the damage done to a cluster of Everglades scientific work stations in Belle Glade. (Photo courtesy of the University of Florida)

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Posted in Flashback blog September 18, 2009 at 9:20 am.

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