Hurricanes in the Florida Keys

Gold from the SS Central America, sunk in a hurricane off the Carolinas in 1857, and found by Tommy Thompson in 1989.


1498: Cuba, damaged fleet en-route to Spain.

1551: December 2, Keys, hurricane causes wreck of Spanish ship.

1555: Several ships of Flota de Tierra Firme separated during a hurricane in Bahama Channel, and were lost.

1556: Several Flotilla ships lost in a fierce storm. Location S. Florida only.

1557: Cuba, “Furious hurricane over whole island.”

1558: Cuba, catastrophic hurricane at Havana. Worse than 1557.

1559: September 19, “A tempest from the North,” lasting 24 hours, struck the Spanish fleet anchored in the Bay of Santa Maria, causing great damage and loss of life. A storm tide swept a Carvel, with cargo, into a grove of trees “more than a harquebus shot from shore.”

1563: A “bad storm” cast the La Madalena on a shoal with loss of 300 lives, 16 saved.

1564: Due to a “bad storm” this year, 23 Spanish ships were lost in Florida waters.

1571: A storm wrecked several ships near St. Augustine.

1572: Two ships wrecked by a storm off Cape Canaveral.

1579: A Frigate was lost “by reason of tempest” off Florida.

1586: A hurricane struck the Nueva Espana Flota at the entrance to the Bahama Channel. Five ships were lost.

1589: September 9+, Large convoy of 100 ships struck by hurricane in Bahama Channel.

1590: Of 100 large ships, all but one was lost “due to a norther” in the Florida Channel.

1591: July 27+, Spanish fleet of 77 ships encounters “many storms” off Florida, 29 ships lost.

1602: September 25, A storm wrecks a Spanish ship near the entrance to the Bahama Channel.

1622: September 6, Large convoy of Spanish ships encounters hurricane in FL Keys. The Atocha and Margarita and Rosario were wrecked between Key West and Dry Tortugas.

Gold plate from Santa Margarita.

1622: October, A second hurricane hits the Marquesas Keys area, scattering the wrecks from hurricane of the previous month.

1623: April 26+, Near the entrance to the Bahama Channel, several ships were lost due to a “bad storm,” with the loss of hundred of lives. Waves were so high that ships “were tossed like corks.”

1634: September 14, Off the coast of Florida, a fleet of Spanish ships was met with a bad storm. The surviving ships continued to Spain, where they reported encountering a second hurricane near Bermuda.

1638: April 18, A storm causes wreck of English ship near Cape Florida.

1641: September 27, The Nueva Espana Flota encounters a hurricane. 5 ships lost.

1683: The 700 ton galleon Santissima Concepcion runs aground after encountering a hurricane.

1692: October 24, Havana, known as “Storm of San Rafael.”

1712: October, Havana.

1714: Cuba.

1730: Havana, destroyed the Paula Hospital.

1733: July 13+, [Possibly same storm as below] 20+ Spanish ships encounter hurricane between Key Biscayne and Key Vaca (Marathon). Great treasure was lost.

1733: July 16, Cuba, “Strong throughout the island.”

1744: November, Cuba. Hurricane followed plague of worms.

1752: October 22, Gulf of Florida hurricane claims 12 ships.

1752: November 2, Gulf of Florida hurricane claims two ships.

1755: November 1, Havana flooded by hurricane.

1756: October 2-3, Cuba.

1766: Oct. 22-23, Violent hurricane strikes Pensacola, from WSW.

1768: October 15, Cuba.

1768: October 25, Havana. 1,000 lives lost, over 4,000 buildings destroyed.

1769: September 29, British ship is wrecked by a “violent gale” near Cape Florida. A different source says the same ship was thrown high and dry on Key Largo (then called Ledbury Key).

1769 or 1770: News reached London that a large Spanish ship was wrecked in the Florida Keys during a “violent gale of wind.”

1771: July 26+, British ship reports 5 large ships and one brig wrecked in the Florida Keys, one with main and mizzen masts lost.

1772: August 16, Cuba.

1775: September 14, Cuba.

1778: October 9, Hurricane sinks 14 large and many small ships at Pensacola.

1778: October 28, Cuba.

1780: October 16-17, Cuba. Called “Solano's Storm.”

1781: The Spanish Fleet, en-route from Havana to Pensacola, met a hurricane and four capital ships, besides others, were totally lost, and there were no survivors of the more than 2,000 men on the ships.

1791: June 21, Havana badly flooded. 3,000 persons, 11,700 cattle perished.

1791: September 27, Cuba.

1792: October 29, Cuba.

1794: August 27-28, Cuba.

1794: October 27-28, Cuba. British ship Vigilant lost near the Cape of Florida, 8/28.

1796: October 3, Bahamas, Cuba.

1796: October 24, Cuba.

1796: November 2, Cuba.

1800: October 14-15, Cuba.

1804: September 6-7, During a “fierce gale”, 8 ships sunk in St. Augustine harbor.

1807: September 5, Cuba.

1810: June, Cuba.

1810: September 28, Cuba.

1810: October 24-25, Cuba. Called the “Salty Storm.” Havana barometer 29.35”.

1811: October 26, Spanish ship lost at Elliot Key during a hurricane.

1816: June 5-8, Five ships lost in the Florida Keys due to “violent gales of wind.”

1819: October 28, Cuba.

1821: Cuba.

1825: October 1, Cuba. Cienfuegos almost completely destroyed.

1826: Cuba.

1831: August 14, Barbados-Cuba-Louisiana. Severe hurricane at Havana, minimal at Key West.

1832: June 4, Cuba, Bahamas, Bermuda.

1833: October 17, Cuba, Gulf of Mexico.

1835: August 15, Havana.

1835: Sept. 15-17, Through straits, near Key West. Carysfort Lightship severe damage. Many ships lost between Key Largo and Cape Canaveral.

1837: October 25-26, Havana lowest barometer 28.06”

1841: October 18-19, A hurricane battered the Key West area, and many ships piled up in the Florida Keys, especially at Mango Key, nine miles east of Key West.

1841: November 28, Cuba.

1842: September 4, From Atlantic due west across Florida to Tampico. Havana barometer 28.03”.

1844: October 5, Cuba, Key West barometer 29.13”. Violent. Center passed NE through Straits. 158 vessels wrecked and over 2,500 houses destroyed.

1844: October 12, Florida Straits.

1846: October 11, Key West, eye grazed town. Lighthouses at Sand Key and Key West lost. Havana barometer 27.06”. 20 vessels lost on the reef. 7 killed.

1850: August 21-23, Cuba to Apalachicola. Moderate in Straits, severe at Apalachicola.

1851: August 21, Havana, eye passed nearby.

1852: August 24, Cuba to Mobile. Eye passed over Dry Tortugas.

1856: August 21-22, Cuba.

1856: August 28-29, Cuba to Mobile. Havana barometer 28.62. The S. S. Florida was blown ashore in St. Joseph's Bay, a complete loss.

1859: Oct. 2, Cuba.

1865: August 22-23, Cuba.

1865: October 22-23, Cuba to Louisiana. Little affect on Keys.

1870: October 7-8, Cuba.

1870: October 19-20, Cuba.

1873: October 6, Western Cuba, Florida. Destroyed Punta Rassa with winds 90mph. Key West barometer 29.28, wind SW 80 mph.

1875: September 14, Eye passed near Havana. Key West barometer 29.57, wind ESE 48.

1876: October 19, Eye passed over Key West. Barometer 28.73. Calm from 6pm to 8:15pm. Maximum wind 88mph at 8:45pm.

1877: October 13, Cienfuegos. Key West barometer 29.78, wind E 27.

1878: July 2, Florida, Key West barometer 29.77, wind W 36.

1878: August 14, Caribbean and Gulf. Key West barometer 29.83, wind SE 24.

1878: September 10, Trinidad, Cuba, Florida, Georgia. At Trinidad, most destructive storm in 40 years. Key West barometer 29.44, wind W 48. 4 days of squalls, one on 7th NW 59.

1879: October 5, Cuba. Key West barometer 29.65, wind SE 30.

1879: October 14, Caribbean, W. Florida. Key West barometer 29.65, wind SE 28.

1880: August 29, South Florida. Key West barometer 29.82, wind SW 32.

1880: October 9, Cuba. Key West barometer 29.88, wind S 23.

1882: September 11, Turks Island, Cuba, Gulf. Key West barometer 29.86 wind W 28.

1882: October 9, Cuba, S of Havana moving NW. Key West barometer 29.70, wind S 31.

1885: October 11, Florida. Key West barometer 29.72 wind SW 28.

1886: June 20, Yucatan, Florida. Much damage at Cedar Keys. Key West barometer 29.85, S 40.

1886: June 28, Yucatan, Florida. Key West barometer 30.00, wind S 29.

1886: July 18, Yucatan Channel, Florida. Key West barometer 29.93, wind SW 52.

1886: August 17-18, Across Cuba into Gulf. Destroyed Indianola, Texas. Key West barometer 29.66, wind NE 48, with numerous gusts to 60. One man killed in fall of new frame building on Duval Street, intended as a cigar factory.

1886: October 10, Western Cuba, East Texas. Worst of storm encountered by Steamer San Marcos, about 120 miles NW of Dry Tortugas. Key West barometer 29.72, wind S 32.

1887: October 9-11, Gulf, over Florida to Atlantic. Key West barometer 29.83, wind NW 36.

1888: September 4, Along N coast of Cuba. Loss of life more than 1,000 in Cuba. Whole towns swept out of existence by gigantic waves. Key West barometer 29.64 wind NE 54.

1888: September 24, Florida Straits, Atlantic. Key West barometer 29.73, wind W 20.

1889: June 17, Extreme Western Cuba, Florida. Key West barometer 29.95, wind S 26.

1891: October 11, Western Caribbean, Florida, Atlantic Coast. Key West 29.76 wind NW 30.

1892: June 10, Southern Florida. Key West barometer 29.68, wind SW 30.

1892: October 26, Gulf, Florida. Key West barometer 29.80, wind N 36.

1893: October 20, South Florida, middle Atlantic Coast. Key West barometer 29.76, wind NE 32.

1894: September 25, Cuba, Gulf. Key West had eye, barometer 29.10, wind SW 87, max 104. Light damage in Key West, considerable wind & flood damage in Cuba.

1894: October 5, Yucatan Channel NE inside Atlantic Coast. Key West barometer 29.84, S 31.

1895: October 2, Yucatan, FL, Straits, Atlantic. Key West barometer 29.83, wind NE 30.

1895: October 22, Cape Verde, Caribbean, W. Cuba, S. Florida, Atlantic. Wind 80 at Havana, very high tides on South Atlantic Coast. Key West barometer 29.61, wind N 49.

1896: September 26, Windward Islands, extreme W Cuba, Florida. Increased intensity as it reached Florida and moved through Atlantic States inside coastline. Key West 29.87 NE 33.

1897: October 15, Caribbean, W Cuba, S Florida. Key West barometer 29.79, wind NE 36.

1898: October 22, Caribbean, W. Cuba, Florida. Key West barometer 29.78, wind N 31.

1899: October 29, Gulf, Florida, Atlantic. Of small force. Key West barometer 29.60, wind NW 40.

1900: September 5, Haiti, Cuba, Galveston TX. The “Galveston Storm” moved through the Straits along N coast of Cuba. $20 million damage at Galveston, 6,000 people killed on Sept. 8. Key West barometer 29.44, wind NE 40.

1901: August 11, Crossed upper Keys and extreme S. Florida. Not much force in Florida, intensified before striking Louisiana Coast. Key West barometer 29.89, wind SW 36.

1902: June 13, 150 miles west of Key West. Key West barometer 29.71, wind SE 24.

1904: September 8, Over middle Keys. Weak storm, not of hurricane strength. Key West 29.74, NW 22.

1904: October 17, Looped W of Key West. Not of hurricane strength. Key West 29.55, W 31.

1904: November 11, Havana to Tampa. Key West 29.68, NW 43.

1906: June 16, Across middle Keys. Not of hurricane strength. Key West 29.62, NE 42.

1906: Sept. 24-25, Across W tip of Cuba to Mobile AL. Key West 29.78, SE 35.

1906: October 18, Up along Keys and looped back to Tampa. Eye passed very near and SE of Key West. Sand Key 29.25, 75mph. Key West 29.30, NW 54. Over 100 deaths in Keys.

1907: September 20, Through the Straits. Weak intensity. Key West 29.86, SE 30.

1909: June 24, Formed in the Straits near Key West. Key West 29.82, NE 24.

1909: September 18, Across W Cuba to Gulf. Slight intensity. Key West 29.76, SE 28.

1909: October 11, Across Cuba, re-curved over S tip of Florida, at which time it attained tremendous force. Weather station at Sand Key swept out to sea; 75 mph registered before station abandoned, wind estimated at 100 mph. Heavy seas swept over the island. Lowest pressure 28.37. Key West 28.50, wind 94. 2 lives lost. 400 buildings collapsed.

1910: October 17, From Havana northward to Key West. Sand Key barometer 28.40, wind est. 125 mph. Key West 28.50, wind est. S 100. Wind continued above gale force for over 30 hours. Eye reported by Navy tug at Dry Tortugas, barometer 28.26, calm lasting 40 minutes. Key West flooded with 7 feet of sea.

1911: August 9, Developed in Florida Straits. Key West 29.91, S 31.

1914: October 24, Developed in W Caribbean, passed W of Key West. Slight intensity. 29.70 SW 25.

1915: September 3, Passed W of Key West, 29.75, S 38.

1916: November 15, From Havana to NE. Sand Key wind N 71, rapid movement to NE. Key West 29.70, wind N 52.

1917: September 26, Crossed W Cuba to Gulf. Key West 29.75, SE 38.

1919: Sept. 9-10, Through Straits just S of Key West. Anemometer cups blew away at 80 mph. Minimum pressure 28.81. Gales endured for 38+ hours. Sand Key anemometer blew away at 84 mph, estimated E 110, barometer 28.35. Center passed over Dry Tortugas, barometer 27.51. Ship near Dry Tortugas read 27.36. 10 ships lost. About 500 killed.

1921: October 24-25, Moved northward, W of Dry Tortugas. Key West 29.55, SW 48.

1922: October 14, West of Dry Tortugas. Key West 29.72, SE 34.

1924: October 22, Moved to NE, NW of Key West, 29.44, NW 39.

1925: November 30, Well NW of Key West, 29.61, SW 36.

1926: September 18, The “Miami Hurricane.” Eye passed over Miami, barometer 27.61, 2-minute velocity 138 mph, tide 11.7' above mean low water. Over 100 killed when they went out in the eye and were caught by the other side of the storm. Key West 29.48, W 52.

1926: October 20, Through the Straits. Havana 28.07, wind 110, 20” rain. Key West 29.16, N 62.

1928: August 9, Upper Keys and SE Florida coast. Not of great force. Key West 29.82, SW 27.

1928: August 13, Nearly over Key West. Not of great intensity. Key West 29.72, SW 36.

1928: Sept. 16-17, The “Lake Okeechobee Storm.” Known as San Felipe in Puerto Rico. 1836 dead, 1870 injured in the Lake Okeechobee district. Key West 29.48, W 39.

1929: September 28, Center passed over Key Largo, pressure about 28”, wind estimated 150 mph, 10 minute eye lull. Long Key 28.18”. Everglades wind estimated 100 mph. Key West 29.21, W 66.

1930: September 6-7, Along N coast of Cuba, re-curved W of Key West. Heavy damage at Santo Domingo, slight intensity thereafter. Key West 29.80, S 25.

1931: September 7, Near Dry Tortugas, mild character. Key West 29.80, S 20.

1932: August 30, Over Southern tip of Mainland. Slight intensity. Key West 29.62, SW 29.

1933: August 17, W of Dry Tortugas. Slight intensity. Key West 29.71, SE 25.

1933: September 1, Through Straits, N of Cuba. Havana 28.92, S 94. Key West 29.61, E 42.

1933: October 4-5, Havana. Eye Pressure 28.81. Key West 29.09, NW 43.

1935: September 2, “The Labor Day Storm.” Eye crossed Lower Matecumbe and Long Key in evening. Storm tide was 15 to 20 feet above mean low water. 1,000 killed. Eye pressure 26.35, lowest ever recorded in Western Hemisphere. Eye lull 40 minutes on Lower Matecumbe, 55 minutes at Long Key Fishing Camp, 9:20 to 10:15 pm. Small diameter but one of the most severe ever recorded. Winds estimated 150-200 mph. Key West 29.41, W 46.

1935: November 4-5, The “Yankee Storm” approached Miami from NE. Eye pressure at Miami 28.73, 75 mph. Key West 29.68, W 36.

1936: June 15, Re-curved NW of Key West. Slight intensity. Key West 29.58, W 32.

1936: July 28-29, Across upper Keys, 30 mile S of Miami. Key West 29.79, NW 38.

1941: October 6, Near Miami. Key West 29.86, W 27.

1941: October 19-21, West of Dry Tortugas. Not of hurricane force. Key West 29.82, NW 17.

1944: October 18, Eye over Dry Tortugas, pressure 28.02. Havana had 163 mph gusts. Key West 29.14, wind SE 56.

1945: September 4, West of Dry Tortugas, not of hurricane force, Key West 29.78, SE 24.

1945: September 15, South tip of mainland. Much destruction at Richmond Air Force Base, 2-minute maximum wind of 170 mph, peak gust at 196 mph. Lowest pressure at Homestead Air Force Base 28.08”. 4 Lives lost in Florida, 22 in the Bahamas. Key West 29.72, NW 29.

1946: October 7, 130 miles W of Key West. An early reconnaissance mission estimated the wind at 132 mph. Lost force rapidly. Key West 29.48, SW 38.

1947: August 20, Through the Florida Straits. Not of hurricane force. Key West 29.88, S 23.

1947: September 17, Across South Florida. Highest wind 155 mph at Hillsboro Light, pressure 27.97. Key West 29.52, W 42.

1947: September 22, 30 miles NW of Dry Tortugas. Not of hurricane force. Key West 29.58, SW 30.

1947: October 11, Up along Keys. Became severe at northern portion of track, 28.76”, 95 mph at Savanna. Key West 29.50, SW 37.

1948: Sept. 20-21, Eye over Boca Chica Airport. Wind 122 mph when the anemometer blew away, estimated 140. Key West 28.45, NW 73. An odd feature of this storm was widely separated calms and lulls. Badly distorted vortex, probably with several distinct centers. Some sources refer to this as the “Miami Herald” hurricane, disputing that it ever existed, and claiming that a local reporter (Earl Adams) fabricated the story.

1948: October 5, Up along Keys. Miami Airport very near center on Oct. 5, 28.92”. Highest wind recorded in Havana, 132 mph. Key West 29.17, N 45.

1950: September 3, Moved across Cuba with less than hurricane force, then severe at Cedar Keys. Key West 29.50, W 37.

1952: February 2, North of Miami, hurricane develops. This is the only known February hurricane in North American history.

1952: October 25, Across Cuba, east of Cardenas, thence eastward through the Bahamas. Key West 29.81, NW 20.

1953: June 4, “Alice” described a loop in the Straits, SW of Dry Tortugas. Key West 29.74, NE 25. This was the first named hurricane for girls names. Previously hurricanes were named by the phonetic alphabet (eg., Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.).

1953: September 25, “Florence” passed through the Yucatan Channel and Northward, going inland near Pensacola. Key West 29.74, E 26.

1953: October 9, “Hazel” passed through the Yucatan Channel and recurved Northward below Tampa. Key West 29.71, SE 29.

1958: September 3, “Ella” moved along the south coast of Cuba, a well-developed hurricane until reaching the Sierra Maestra mountains in SE Cuba. Thereafter circulation center was weak and diffuse, but numerous squalls continued about 200 mile NE of center until it went inland north of Corpus Christi TX. 72 knots at Dry Tortugas was highest wind reported after crossing the Sierra Maestras. Key West 29.84, SE 59.

1959: October 17-18, “Judith” formed near the NE tip of Yucatan, moved NE across Florida. Of slight intensity at this portion of the track. Key West 29.70, SW 33.

1960: Sept. 9-10, “Donna” Cape Verdi Storm, became hurricane in mid-Atlantic 9/1/60. Moved across mid- and upper Keys doing much damage. Key West 29.28, 70 mph. Conch Key 27.25, gusts 127 mph. Sombrero Light 150 mph.

1964: October 15, “Isbell” became hurricane 10/13 just before passing extreme W Cuba. Moved NE passing near the Marquesas Keys 10/14/64. Key West 29.49, 80 mph, 4-5' tide, $250 million damage in Key West.

1965: September 8, “Betsy” formed in SW Atlantic 8/26, hurricane strength 8/29. Storm was heading NW off the mid- Florida peninsula when it made a loop and headed SW then W passing across the upper Keys on the 8th. Max winds at Key West 81 mph, tides 5-7 feet. Big Pine Key winds 125-140 mph, gusts to 165 mph.

1966: October 4, “Inez” formed in South central Atlantic 9/21. Slow moving with strange behavior, passing over central Cuba 10/1, heading NE. When storm was off Palm Beach, it reversed and moved SW. Easterly portion of storm passed over all the Keys on 10/4. Maximum winds 85 mph in Key West.

1979: September 2, “David” formed in south central Atlantic August 25. Storm devastated Dominica in with surge exceeding 18'. Reported 1000 killed in Dominican Republic. Storm regained hurricane force and headed for the Keys. It abruptly changed course and skirted to the east of Miami, with its weakest side making landfall. Sunny day in Key West. Governor orders evacuation of the Keys previous evening at midnight, few leave.

1979: October, “Frederick” passes near Dry Tortugas. A minimal storm near the Keys, it gained strength in the Gulf and wreaked havoc when it made landfall in north Florida.

1981: August 16-17, “Donna” passed over middle Keys. Weak storm, good rain producer. Key West 29.62, 35 mph. No damage in Keys.

1983: June 3-4, “Alberta” formed in Yucatan moving NE. Gained hurricane strength 90 miles SW of Key West. Storm lost strength in 6 hours, no damage in Keys.

1985: November 19, Hurricane “Kate” strikes Key West, of minimal intensity. Runoff election for City of Key West candidates that day is cancelled at 6pm, rescheduled for two weeks later.

1987: October, Hurricane “Floyd” strikes Key West, with the eye traveling up the Northwest Channel, and stalling for about an hour with total calm in Key West. Little damage in the Keys.

1992: August 23, Hurricane “Andrew” strikes Dade County and upper Keys, causing 30 billion dollars in damage, but little to the Keys.

1998: September 25, Hurricane “Georges” passes directly over Key West spawning numerous tornadoes and ravaging homes and businesses throughout the Lower Keys. Key West was closed off to all visitors until mid-October.

2004: August 13, Hurricane “Charley” moves northward to the west of the Florida Keys, Charley produced moderate winds of 48 mph with gusts to 60 mph in Key West. The winds downed a few trees, power lines, and unreinforced signs. A boat knocked loose by strong waves struck a power transmission line, causing widespread power outages from Marathon to Key West. On Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, the hurricane produced an estimated storm surge of up to 6 feet. The surge, combined with waves, caused extensive flooding in the park and damaged numerous docks. Damage was minimal in the Keys.

2005: August 25, Hurricane “Katrina” strikes Broward & Dade Counties, and then travels south through the Keys. Damage was mostly down power lines and flooding.






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