Key West, FL Hurricane and Houseboat Rescue, Oct 1906
The 1906 Florida Keys hurricane was a powerful and deadly hurricane that caused major impacts in Cuba and southern Florida. The fifth hurricane and third major hurricane of the season, the storm formed from a system near Barbados on October 4. By October 8, it had intensified into a tropical storm, and made landfall as a hurricane in Central America. The hurricane traveled towards Cuba, making landfall and wreaking havoc on the island.
The storm then made a third landfall in the Florida Keys during the evening of October 18. At least 240 people were killed as a result of the hurricane, and damages totaled at least $4,135,000.
Of the 240 people killed during the storm, 135 were workers on the Florida East Coast Railway. The hurricane eventually led to the end of pineapple production in the Florida Keys for commercial purposes in 1915, although this was amplified by two further hurricanes in the following years. In 1947, Project Cirrus, a collaboration of the United States Air Force, attempted to seed a hurricane; however, the storm made a sudden re-curvature and came ashore near Charleston, South Carolina. As a result, several lawsuits were filed, although they were denied after the path of this storm was revealed to have been similar to the 1906 hurricane.
In Miami, over 100 houses were destroyed, and the Episcopal and Methodist churches were completely destroyed. The jail in Miami was nearly completely dismantled, and the prisoners were evacuated. In Fort Pierce, the Peninsula and Occidental railcar sheds collapsed, with the roofs blown away. A two-story brick saloon was destroyed during the hurricane. The Miami telegraph office reported street flooding in the city, and that the telegraph office was flooded. Damage in Miami amounted to $160,000. In Key West, houses and trees were knocked down. In St. Augustine, the tide was described as the "highest in ten years," where streets were flooded throughout the city. At least 70 passengers on the steamers St. Lucia and Peerless drowned during the storm near Elliott Key. The steamers Campbell and the Sara were destroyed near the Isle of Pines, and the Elmora sank. Telegraph lines were also down south of Jupiter.
The effects of the hurricane were most severe on the Florida East Coast Railway, where at least 135 people died, 104 of them on Houseboat No. 4, one of the railway's boats. Many of the workers were swept to sea on barges and flatboats; however, the steamer Jenny rescued 42 workers, who were dropped off at Key West, while another 24 were sent to Savannah, Georgia. The railway's losses totaled about $200,000. Construction was disrupted for a whole year by the storm, as equipment was reassembled and repaired. Many farmers on the Florida Keys suffered large losses; orange groves and fields of pineapples were devastated by the storm. Six lives were lost on plantations in the Keys. At the government wharf, the Fessenden was damaged during the hurricane.