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Killer 'Cane: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928 epub

by Robert Mykle


Killer 'Cane: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928 epub

ISBN: 081541207X

ISBN13: 978-0815412076

Author: Robert Mykle

Category: History

Subcategory: Americas

Language: English

Publisher: Cooper Square Press; 1st Cooper Square Press ed edition (May 28, 2002)

Pages: 320 pages

ePUB book: 1204 kb

FB2 book: 1336 kb

Rating: 4.3

Votes: 106

Other Formats: lit docx azw rtf





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The true stories Robert Mykle tells in Killer 'Cane: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928 paint a picture of nature's terrible . Mykle 57) In September 1928, this dangerous bet went terribly wrong, as a major hurricane laid a perfect strike on central Florida.

The true stories Robert Mykle tells in Killer 'Cane: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928 paint a picture of nature's terrible immensity that's the stuff of nightmares. This is a superbly written book. In Killer & Robert Mykle vividly describes the horrors of the storm from the perspective of these unfortunate farmers. By interviewing over forty 1928 Hurricane survivors, Mykle allows the story to be by the people that experienced the worst of the storm.

Killer 'Cane takes place in the Florida Everglades, which was still a newly settled frontier in the 1920s. On the night of September 16, 1928, a hurricane swung up from Puerto Rico and collided, quite unexpectedly, with Palm Beach

Killer 'Cane takes place in the Florida Everglades, which was still a newly settled frontier in the 1920s. On the night of September 16, 1928, a hurricane swung up from Puerto Rico and collided, quite unexpectedly, with Palm Beach. The powerful winds from the storm burst a dike and sent a twenty-foot wall of water through three towns, killing over two thousand people, a third of the area's population.

The Okeechobee hurricane of 1928, also known as the San Felipe Segundo hurricane, was one of the deadliest hurricanes in the recorded history of the North Atlantic basin; it was the fourth tropical cyclone, third hurricane, and only major hurricane . .

The Okeechobee hurricane of 1928, also known as the San Felipe Segundo hurricane, was one of the deadliest hurricanes in the recorded history of the North Atlantic basin; it was the fourth tropical cyclone, third hurricane, and only major hurricane of that year's hurricane season. It developed off the west coast of Africa on September 6 as a tropical depression, but it strengthened into a tropical storm later that day, shortly before passing south of the Cape Verde islands

Killer 'Cane takes place in the Florida Everglades, which was still a newly settled frontier in the 1920s

Killer 'Cane takes place in the Florida Everglades, which was still a newly settled frontier in the 1920s.

On the night of September 16, 1928, a hurricane swung up from Puerto Rico and collided, quite unexpectedly, with Palm Beach

Killer 'Cane takes place in the Florida Everglades, which was still a newly settled frontier in the 1920s.

If you live in the Caribbean or Florida, you’ve probably heard tales about the Great Okeechobee Hurricane, which killed thousands and left behind wide . To this day, it remains the deadliest hurricane to ever strike the Bahamas.

If you live in the Caribbean or Florida, you’ve probably heard tales about the Great Okeechobee Hurricane, which killed thousands and left behind wide swaths of destruction. Also known as the Saint Felipe (Phillip) Segundo Hurricane, it developed in the far eastern Atlantic before making its way over land and taking the lives of Bahamian migrant workers and Florida residents.

Killer 'Cane takes place in the Florida Everglades, which was still a newly settled frontier in the 1920s. On the night of September 16, 1928, a hurricane swung up from Puerto Rico and collided, quite unexpectedly, with Palm Beach. The powerful winds from the storm burst a dike and sent a twenty-foot wall of water through three towns, killing over two thousand people, a third of the area's population. Robert Mykle shows how the residents of the Everglades had believed prematurely that they had tamed nature, how racial attitudes at the time compounded the disaster, and how in the aftermath the cleanup of rapidly decaying corpses was such a horrifying task that some workers went mad. Killer 'Cane is a vivid description of America's second-greatest natural disaster, coming between the financial disasters of the Florida real-estate bust and the onset of the Great Depression.
From a modern perspective, the farming communities near Lake Okeechobee in the 1920s were primed for a major disaster. Drawn by the lure of the rich black soil, farmers braved frequent droughts, floods, blistering heat in the summer, frost in the winter, and swarms of mosquitoes year round in hopes of making a fortune selling vegetables. For Henry Martin, one of Mykle's primary subjects, taking chances was the only life he knew. "Henry Martin, like most pioneers, was a born gambler. He loved the chance to double it all. As a farmer, each day he made the ultimate wager--he bet against Mother Nature." (Mykle 57) In September 1928, this dangerous bet went terribly wrong, as a major hurricane laid a perfect strike on central Florida. In Killer `Cane, Robert Mykle vividly describes the horrors of the storm from the perspective of these unfortunate farmers. By interviewing over forty 1928 Hurricane survivors, Mykle allows the story to be by the people that experienced the worst of the storm. Since the interviews were emphasized, the book does omit some historical details that could have supplemented and clarified the firsthand survival stories. As a whole, Killer `Cane thrives as an oral history, complete with the raw narratives, emotions, and opinions from those who most directly experienced one of the least documented major disasters in American history.

As with any disaster of this magnitude, a wide variety of meteorological, political, and social factors converged to augment the damage and death toll. Instead of revealing the causes systematically, Mykle cleverly uses the opening chapters to illustrate the early history of the Lake Okeechobee region by introducing the residents as they settled. Mykle's description of the early settlement offers the reader perspective for how so many people came to occupy this seemingly inhospitable land. Before settlers moved in, the lake had no set boundaries, with the level fluctuating into surrounding sawgrass swamps between the summer wet season and winter dry season. The successful opening of the Panama Canal in 1904 precipitated canal building in Florida, as governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward collected funding for canals starting from Miami and Fort Lauderdale (Mykle 17-18). Mykle documents a few brave farmers that settled in the 1910s, but flood-drought cycles and even strong wind tides off Lake Okeechobee kept most settlers away until after WWI, as a muck dike constructed from 1923-1925 finally brought large areas of consistently arable land (Mykle 68-69).

Despite numerous weather-related issues in the decade prior to the hurricane, the population around Lake Okeechobee grew rapidly. Mykle does not quantify this growth, but he does clearly annotate improvements in transportation and services in the region. According to another account of the storm, Black Cloud by Eliot Kleinberg, about 8,000 people (including black farmhands) lived in the towns around the lake by 1928 (Kleinberg 15). Why did so many people move to low, swampy land during this time? In general, only people, "with nothing to lose would risk their savings, their health, and even their lives in a strange, isolated, dangerous land." (Mykle 61) While the reasons for arriving varied, it was always the rich, black soil that kept the farmers from leaving. One important fact not emphasized by Mykle is that the fertile muck was only present within about one mile of Lake Okeechobee, which placed the majority of Florida's population either right along the lake or on higher ground in West Palm Beach, with a large expanse of swamp wilderness in between. (Kleinberg 11) After the storm, this geographical barrier contributed to significant delays in arriving aid, or even recognition by government that a major disaster had occurred. Killer `Cane mentions but downplays the social stratification at this time, as major disconnects existed between the millionaires in West Palm Beach, the white farmers, and the poverty-stricken black migrant farm workers.

Any social inequities took a back seat to prosperity in the Roaring Twenties. With the dike finished in 1925, the second half of the 1920s was set up to be a prosperous time for central Florida, if only the weather would cooperate. Instead, the weather pattern shifted to wet and stormy. The first blow was the 1926 Miami Hurricane, which missed Lake Okeechobee to the south, but flooded Moore Haven by piling water over the dike on the west side of the lake. The storm should have been a dire warning for others living in low land, but by the end of the year the attitude was that, "the 1926 hurricane season was relegated to the past. The dike was repaired, and farmers planted with renewed vigor." (Mykle 91) Mykle's assessment of the 1926 hurricane is too brief, as he only notes that funding was rejected for a new, larger dike, and that Moore Haven was relocated. (Mykle 87-92) The 1926 storm did rattle the Everglades, but not nearly to the extent that it should have. The farmers' only recourse was to lobby the Everglades Drainage District engineer to lower the lake lever by opening the spillways out of the lake. However, the engineer also faced lobbying from those downstream of the lake. Mykle avoided discussion of the political implications, but Kleinberg notes that the state remained unconcerned with flooding and retorted that the districts goal was to reclaim swampland, not control floods. (Kleinberg, 31) This conflict was exacerbated by heavy summer rains in 1927 and 1928, raising Lake Okeechobee to record levels by September 1928. The stories in Killer` Cane suggest that the residents were aware of the danger of the high lake level, but were optimists and considered the 1926 hurricane to be an aberration. (Mykle 118) Hurricanes were simply not discussed and life continued as usual.

It is possible that the risk of a severe flood was more on the minds of Lake Okeechobee residents than Mykle implies. The political debate detailed in Black Cloud may have seemed distant to the average farmer, but most likely the local discourse included concern about the possibility of a catastrophic dam failure. Perhaps the omission occurs because the interview subjects were only children or young adults at the time, and did not participate in adult conversations. It is also easier for one to recall a life-defining survival story decades later than to remember the lesser details that happened beforehand. The subjects could have been unwilling to lay blame on their parents for not recognizing the hazards of their location, instead preferring to correlate the risk of living along the lake with the overall defiant attitude of the Prohibition Era. Mykle chose to not use direct quotes from the interviews or comment on the detail of the interviews. The advantage of this approach is that the reader gets to enjoy the survival stories without interruption from a skeptical narrator. However, a historian may be left wondering whether Killer Cane's accuracy was confirmed from different accounts of the same event or if Mykle blended the accounts to remove any inconsistencies.

Although Mykle's approach leaves some of the details in question, Killer `Cane thrives in describing the hurricane forecasts and preparation from the residents' perspective, as the frequent point of view changes create a tone of growing concern and confusion as the conflicting reports spread through the rumor mill. Despite the inadequate warnings, most residents did know that a hurricane was coming and had time to make preparations and take shelter. However, the forecasts significantly underestimated the intensity of the storm and did not express certainty of a hit until after the storm's impacts were already being felt in Florida. Most residents took shelter in their wood homes or in some of the more sturdy buildings in town. The storm's cyclonic winds first piled the lake's water toward South Bay, where a poorly designed "V" shape in the dike further helped to funnel the surge into the town. As the storm passed, the surge of lake water moved northward, easily overtaking the dike and swallowing Belle Glade and eventually Pahokee. Mykle describes with great emotion and detail how the panicked residents climbed to the upper levels of their shelters until the water lifted the buildings off their foundations and slammed them against each other. Chaos then ensued in the pitch black night, as survivors clung onto trees or debris while thousands drowned. By morning, the residents' hopes and dreams are left in ruins, with several thousand bodies scattered across the flooded landscape.

The aftermath was even more horrific than the storm itself. Dr. William J. Buck's treatment of victims and leadership in the cleanup is an inspiring story, but for the most part, the cleanup was slow and painful. With all connections to the outside world severed, it took days for outside help to arrive and weeks to collect and bury the bodies. (Mykle 188) Mykle also documents unequal treatment of blacks during this time, as black males were forced by whites to labor through the most arduous and gruesome aspects of the cleanup. It is unfortunate that Mykle did not interview any surviving blacks from the cleanup, since the perspective of the most underprivileged black victims is noticeably absent from Killer `Cane. The final death toll was also controversial. Mykle suggests that the official US tally of 1,836 was intentionally low to minimize outside criticism and salvage the tourism industry. By adding the figures at each individual cemetery and estimating those lost and burned, Mykle suggests up to 3,000 Florida residents may have died. (Mykle, 212-213) The actual total is impossible to determine, but it is likely around 2,500 due to additional missing or burnt bodies and exaggeration at some of the mass graves. Mykle should have also been suspicious of the reported 1,600 dead at Port Mayeca, which Kleinberg argues is physically impossible. (Kleinberg 214)

The historical maps show that the Lake Okeechobee hurricane followed almost a perfect straight line, northwest from the Leeward Islands through Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and finally through West Palm Beach and directly over Lake Okeechobee. However, the forecasts from the Weather Bureau first predicted the storm to miss Florida to the south, then later predicted it to recurve to the east, with the official forecasts of a hurricane landfall only coming less than 24 hours before it actually occurred. Mykle suggests that politics played a role in the bad forecasts, with the Weather Bureau and local media afraid of creating panic or tourism damage by raising alarm. (Mykle 131) A more detailed analysis of the Weather Bureau's mistakes is beyond the scope of Killer `Cane, but Mykle does rightfully cast blame on the ambiguous and inaccurate forecasts. Ideally, the residents should have been advised to prepare many days in advance, as it was known from 1926 that September hurricanes do not always recurve. Still, the forecasts would have needed to be accurate beyond the technology of the era to prevent significant loss of life. Preventative measures such as improved building codes and a strong dike were still years away, so only a widespread evacuation could have moved people out of harm's way. The migrant black farmhands were doomed either way, as they were the last to receive warning of the hurricane and they would not have possessed the means to evacuate even if they had advance notice.

As a whole, Killer `Cane is an exceptional oral history, but lacks additional primary sources and commentary to present a complete picture of the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. Mykle only adds a few details from outside sources and never specifies how much modification was done to the raw interviews. The lack of added commentary by the author is likely intentional, as Mykle preferred to let the survivors tell the story. For additional historical context and more details from Puerto Rico and West Palm Beach, Black Cloud is a great compliment to Killer `Cane. Eliot Kleinberg includes exact facts, figures, and quotations from primary sources to provide perspective to Killer `Cane's raw testimonies. For these reasons, Killer `Cane is similar to a weather television documentary like Storm Stories. In both cases, drama and storytelling are emphasized over historical details and analysis, but the finished product is still both entertaining and worthwhile for the average weather enthusiast.
I live in Palm Beach County and was gratified to find this book - it gave a clear picture of what happened in Palm Beach County during that year and especially in the Belle Glade area during the hurricane. Well written and author seemed to have done some solid research into the subject. Well worth reading.
Very good book, but very sad
I had relatives that died in this hurricane
I found this book to be very interesting and informative. A must for any Floria or Gulf Coast resident, property
owner or home buyer. You will never look at Flroida the same, as you drive around, after reading this book.
You'll have a much better perspective of what to do if/when a hurricane is headed your way after reading
the recounts of these historical experiences of the survivors.
Excellent !!! I recommend ...
This was the first hurricane book I read and because of it I have read 4 more. The fact that this storm is hardly ever brought up in discussions about the worst hurricanes ever is beyond me. It not only covers the storm and the people involved with great detail and accuracy, but also the old Floridian history in the southern Lake Okeechobee areas. Due to a lack of census information and inaccurate death tolls this may have been(according to experts) the deadliest hurricane ever. Most believe the death toll being closer to 2,000 than the "official" number given. You get to know the characters to a point that when disaster strikes you almost feel like your reading about people you know. Even though it's not a large book( page wise) it seems to have all the information you could need or want on this tragic event. I have since read another book on this same storm, it too was a good book, but I personally think this one is better. I will always wonder(having been through 5 hurricanes myself, including Andrew, and the eyes of Francis, Jean, and Wilma) how these people must have felt when these storms rolled over them. No radar, no tv, no radio, no warning whatsoever. No chance to really prepare or plan or even evacuate. It just amazes me. If you like history or especially natural disaster type books at their finest, buy this book.