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Hurricane Dorian isn’t the first hurricane expected to impact South Florida over Labor Day. Some of the state’s biggest storms have hit Florida around this time causing destruction and changing the way the area looks today. The holiday falls in the middle of peak hurricane season.
On Labor Day back in 1935, before hurricanes even had names, one swept through the Florida Keys, destroying the railroad system that was never rebuilt.
It also killed more than 200 veterans who were working on federal projects at the time.
“It was a mild storm until it crossed the area, the parts of the keys that would take you right to the land mass and it just picked up so much steam in a short period of time,” said Dr. Paul George, a historian with the HistoryMiami Museum.
Then, 25 years later, Hurricane Donna hit Florida right after the holiday, flooding homes from the Keys all the way to Homestead.
Then, Hurricane Betsy struck close to Labor Day weekend in 1965. The storm caused much of Miami and Miami Beach to be underwater. The hurricane was later nicknamed “Billion Dollar Betsy” due to the amount of damage left behind.
“It flooded the beach tremendously, it flooded Key Biscayne, and somebody said in Key Biscayne it looked as if the Mississippi River was coming down the street,” said Dr. George.
Building codes and regulations have changed since then, but the threat remains.
“There’s more people here, there are more buildings here, there’s more vulnerability,” said Dr. George.
One of the biggest threats that hasn’t changed is the threat of storm surge. However, it’s an even bigger threat today due to the large amount of people who are now living along the coast.
Meanwhile, inside the HistoryMiami Museum, workers are rushing to prepare for the Hurricane themselves. They’re putting plastic over many of the artifacts inside their downtown building just in case.
“Our valuables really are the treasures of Miami’s history,” said HistoryMiami Museum Executive Director Jorge Zamanillo. “We have millions of photographs, artifacts, maps, and rare items that really go back thousands of years,” he said.