Okeechobee County, 

Florida 

A Pictorial History--Page 10

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I1926 Hurricane II.jpg (41589 bytes)n 1926, Lake Okeechobee had another visitor, and this one was not welcomed.  On September 18, 1926, a devastating hurricane slammed into the West Side of Lake Okeechobee and almost destroyed the town of Moore Haven.  Okeechobee lucked out during this storm as not much damage was done, but the storm was but a preview of what was to come later.  

Hurricane_Okee_Hwd.jpg (42846 bytes)Just two years later on September 16, 1928, another even more devastating storm smashed into the peninsular, and came right up the middle dealing death and destruction to many of the towns on the southeast shore of Lake Okeechobee.  Okeechobee County did not escape the fury of this storm.  

1928 Hurricane.jpg (43786 bytes)The most severe loss of life was to families living near the lakeshore at Utopia, Upthegrove Beach, and Eagle Bay.  Approximately 30 people of Okeechobee County lost their lives during this storm, many from the same families.  

Hurricane Coffins.jpg (44681 bytes)During and after this storm the new courthouse served as a shelter first for families trying to find refuge from the storm, and after as a morgue for the dead awaiting burial.  It was an awful night, and one that many of these families will never forget.   Annie Raulerson once told me that her father-in-law, Lewis Raulerson made all of her family go down to his store as he felt that it was the strongest building in town.  She said that they were not the only ones there, and that there were so many people in the store that they could hardly walk around.  When the men at the store would go outside to check the building they would hold hands, as the wind was so strong they could not stand up.  When they came back from the inspection they said that Meserve’s store was not there any more.  It was lying flat on the ground.  

Lake Drive Okee.jpg (75240 bytes)The high water never reached the middle of town.  It ended where the south city limits are today, about Southeast 21st. Street, near where the old water tank was.  The Red Cross came in and spent thousands of dollars rebuilding homes and businesses after the storm.  The Red Cross estimates at the time placed the number of dead from this hurricane at more than 2,000.  The 1928 Hurricane, following the 1926 storm, was the end of the commercial fishing industry as a vibrant business in this area.  Millions of fish were blown out of the lake during both storms, causing the fish population to plunge to a very low point, and remain there for many years.  It would be a long time before Lake Okeechobee’s fisheries recovered.  

southland_hotel_greeting_hoover.jpg (59452 bytes)Not long after the storm, President-Elect Herbert Hoover visited the Lake Okeechobee area and came to Okeechobee City.  On the visit Governor-Elect Doyle Carlton accompanied him on his survey.   It was reported in several papers of the day that Mr. Hoover was moved to tears when he saw the destruction.  When he took office, one of the first things on his agenda was plans for the construction of a dike around the populated areas of the lake. 

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