Most Floridians have no idea about Florida's place in the country's weather history books - a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour when it made landfall in West Palm Beach early in the morning of September 17, 1928. The damage in Palm Beach and West Palm Beach was horrific with 1,711 houses destroyed and 268 businesses demolished. Damage in today's dollars exceeded $350,000,000!
As the hurricane worked its way west, it picked up speed and when it reached Lake Okeechobee, the last wind speed reading was 160 mph before the instrumentation was blown away. But it wasn't the wind that caused what is still the second worst storm related death count in the history of the US.
The 18" of rain dumped in an already full Lake raised the water to the top of the 4' earthen dike at the south end of the lake. But the subsequent south blowing wind whipped up the swollen lake and the storm surge overpowered the dike and gushed into the surrounding countryside inundating cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. The death count exceeded 2,500, many of whom were swept into the Everglades and their bodies never recovered.
Due to racial segregation at the time, the white victims were put into coffins and given a proper burial at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. For all the others, some were burned in funeral pyres while many more were placed into mass pauper graves. One of those mass graves is in West Palm Beach at Tamarind and 25th where 674 victims were dumped and covered with lye and dirt - and then forgotten. But a man with a quest, Robert Hazard, made it his life's mission to commemorate those unfortunate souls who were buried without any kind of memorial.
FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE
Dorothy Hazard is a graduate of University of Massachusetts planning on making her career in teaching. However life had other plans and when she and her husband, Robert, decided to settle in Palm Beach County, she decided to become a social worker instead and spent more than 30 years with Palm Beach County Community Services. Now that her husband has been sidelined from a stroke, she has picked up the mantle and is running the organization he founded to bring a memorial and a museum to the mass grave site of 674 minority victims of the horrendous hurricane of 1928.
Palm Beach SCORE
Palm Beach SCORE is a non-profit who's mission is helping local small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs grow and thrive by offering mentoring, workshops, business consulting and counseling services, networking opportunities, events and partnerships within the Palm Beach / South Florida business corridor.
SCORE-ing Your Business' host Penny Pompei serves as Chapter Chair for our local Palm Beach SCORE Chapter #224, located in beautiful downtown West Palm Beach.