Lake Okeechobee, FL Thousands Die In Hurricane, Sep 1928




West Palm Beach, Fla., Sept. 19 (AP) -- HOWARD SELBY, chairman of the Palm Beach County Red Cross organization, told a conference of relief workers this morning that to date bodies of 200 persons, victims of the hurricane had been buried in the local cemeteries.
The bodies, half of them of white persons, came from the region about Lake Okeechobee, SELBY said.
Conditions Extreme.
"Conditions in the stricken area are growing worse every minute," SELBY said. "About 8,000 persons in the lake region are in desperate need of clothing, food and medical aid."
"They have been standing in water for hours and hours and there are a number of cases of double pneumonia. There are about 1,000 homeless in the county."
"The estimated damage of Palm Beach County, place yesterday at $25,000,000, now is nearer $30,000,000."
Sanitation Terrible.
"Sanitation conditions in the lake regions are terrible," SELBY said. "Although conditions along the coast are fairly good. In the lake region, two companies of state national guard troops arrived last night and are on duty. The sections around Pakokee and Canal Point, are under military control."
"Clothing especially, shoes, are badly needed."
Boats Inadequate
Sheriff BOB BAKER of Palm Beach County and a squad of deputies who went to Pahokee, Canal Point and South Bay to bring in needs of the the storm victims said on their return today that the outboard motor boats in which they went were "wholly inadequate" to meet their needs. The sheriff said a sea skiff would be taken into the area today, stationed at strategic point as a base of operations and that motor boats would bring the dead to the skiff. He said most of the dead were negroes.
Relief workers have sent emergency supplies in boats to the lake area. Coast guard rum chasers have gone up New river from the base of Fort Lauderdale to aid in the rescue and relief work.
Some bodies have been taken to Fort Pierce for burial. Reports reaching relief headquarters here said.
SELBY said he had received very few reports of looting in the stricken areas in this county and elsewhere.

Okeechobee City, Fla., Sept. 19 (AP) -- National guardsmen and civilians continued the work today of searching for bodies around the north shore of Lake Okeechobee, where the tropical disturbance struck Sunday night, while Red Cross workers, military forces and citizens continued rehabilitation the town, begun on Monday morning as early as it was possible to muster forces.
Four Red Cross workers under temporary direction of MRS. F. B. MOSS, of Washington, D. C., have thoroughly organized all relief work to eliminate duplication. A trained field representative from Washington was expected today to take charge of the section around the lake while A. L. SCHAFER, also of Washington, with 10 field workers was reported to be enroute to West Palm Beach this morning, to have charge of relief work around that city.
Streets Patrolled.
Military forces here are under sommand of Major ROGER LYLE, of Bartowl. They are patrolling the streets, caring for the dead and combing the saw grass for additional bodies.
The first complete relief train, from Haines City, reached here last night with food, clothing, medical supplies and equipment. West Palm Beach, badly damaged, was one of the first cities to respond to calls for aid. Officials there said they had little, but they would gladly share it with other needy people.
There is an ample supply of food here, but bedding, clothing and mattresses are desired. Additional medical supplies including serum of various kinds are sought to prevent disease.
The Dead.
Known drowned: DAMON UPTHEGROVE, 23; Eight persons of STEPHENS and FRAZIER families; Five members of the ROBERTS family; Three members of the YEATH family; SYLVESTER ARNOLD; SIMON CARTER; BILL WALDRON.

Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 19 (AP) -- While the remnant of last week's West Indian hurricane was veering toward the Virginia capes, Florida today canvassed a reported known death list of 250, casualties in the thousands, and an emergency requiring military aid and immediate relief.
Figures Available.
For the first time since Sunday, when the hurricane struck the mainland just south of West Palm Beach, comprehensive figures on the dead and official computation of damage were becoming available.
Prefacing his estimate with the statement that "this storm can't be exaggerated." HOWARD SELBY, chairman of Palm Beach County Red Cross committee last night said the death toll in the county alone, one of the worst hit areas of the state, would range around 400, and that damage would be $25,000,000. Senator JOE T. ROBINSON, Democratic vice presidential nominee who left the area last night after donating the use of his private car, said damage was estimated at between $70,000,000 and $100,000,000.
Wave Swept Section.
But out of the border towns of Lake Okeechobee came word of the greatest loss of life, the missing reported by various relief committees ranging around 300. The hurricane swept up a huge wave in the lake which overran the countryside all along the eastern shore from Okeechobee City on the north to Belle Glade on the southern tip. The dead as verified by competent authorities, however, was 32 identified.
Confronted by this emergency, Governor JOHN MARTIN authorized military units to proceed into the stricken areas from Tampa, Arcadia and other points, giving Adjutant General V. B. COLLINS authority to confer with the Red Cross at West Palm Beach and use his troops accordingly.
Conditions Critical.
On receipt of reports by the Red Cross at Miami, which escaped harm, that conditions were "extremely critical" from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach, the governor sent a telegram to CHARLES H. MANN, president of the state board of health, which asked fullest cooperation.
Meanwhile, the United States army had cooperated wo the extent of sending 1,000 army cots from the fourth corps area headquarters at Fort McPherson, Ga., and seven disaster relief workers were moving into the West Palm Beach area from the Washington offices of the Red Cross. The United States public health service had authorized a representative to cooperate from Jacksonville and planned to expedite delivery of antitoxins.
Serums Needed.
Typhoid and other serums were badly needed, particularly in the Okeechobee section, where sanitary conditions were estremely serious. Relief workers sent in from Miami reported that 150 bodies had been counted south of Fahokee, and only 11 had been moved into the town due to poor facilities. Many were left on dykes to await trucks.
Apparently serious conditions obtained in Florida only on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee, and in the Palm Beach Area, which embraced Pompano, Deerfield, Delray, Boynton, Lake Worth, Canal Point and smaller adjoining communities.
Storm Turned.
Central Florida escaped harm of serious nature when the disturbance turned Monday morning somewhere east of Tamps, and struck toward Jacksonville. Minor damage was reported there, together with interrupted communication lines, conditions which obtained up the Atlantic coast as far north as the Carolinas. Western Florida escaped unscathed, and Clewiston and Moorehaven on the western side of Lake Okeechobee apparently escaped with only minor damage.

By T. R. Gill
(Associated Press Staff Writer)
West Palm Beach, Fla. Sept. 19. -- Graphic eye-witness stories of death and privation in the Backwoods region around the Great Lake Okeeshobee in southern Florida were brought here today by injured and destitute persons living in that regioin.
Thrilling stories of escapes were told by all refugees who were brought here by the Red Cross for medical treatment, lodging or food.
Dike Broke.
D. H. WALKER, a farmer of South Bay who escaped with his wife and five children said the dike broke about 11 p.m. Sunday sending a wall of water through South Bay to a depth of eight feet. His house was washed away and he and his family sought refuge on a house boat where approximately, 150 other persons were lodged. He said he saw many persons unable to get to the house boat holding to driftwood. He counted 22 bodies tied to trees with rope by rescue workers to keep them from floating away. Practically all the territory in that section was under water, he said.
Homes Blown Away.
L. A. HARGRAVES who formerly lived at Memphis, Tenn., and who has been farming in the section between Belle Glade and Pahokee, said he ran from his home when it started to collapse. He sought refuge in another home only to leave it again when it too was being blown away. He ran to a third house where two white men and ten negroes had sought refuge. When it started to collapse he crawled a quarter of a mile on his hands and knees to a tall rubber tree. When he climbed to the top he found a negro man and his wife clinging to a top limb. Shorty afterward he said he saw the house containing the two white men and the negroes washed away when the dike broke. He never saw the occupants of the house again.
Water Rose Rapidly.
Water around the tree arose about nine feet in thirty minutes, he related. He and the two negroes were rescued the next morning and brought here for treatment.
The names of the white men in the house were HORACE REDDING, 25, and his brother-in-law, HARRISON ROBERTS, 21, HARGRAVES reported.
CARROLL WINEGARDNER of Boynton, a dairy worker, was injured about the head when the dairy house in which he and his family and several other workers had sought shelter gave way. His father and mother, MR. and MRS. C. M. WINEGARDNER were seriously injured and brought to a refugee camp here.

The Kingsport Times Tennessee 1928-09-19
(TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: The actual number of fatalities from this disastrous hurricane will over ever by know to God. The estimated totals run from 2,500 to 3,500 in Florida alone. This would rank 2nd only to the Galveston Hurricane, in number of casualties. )


My great-grandfather...

...drowned in the 1928 hurricane. His name was Arlan Woodham. He had gone to Belle Glade to work and earn money for his family; he left my grandfather, great-grandmother, and my two great-uncles and great-aunt behind in Frostproof, Florida, planning to send for them when he had enough money for a homestead. Sadly, that never happened. He was staying with a family there, and every member of the family drowned with him except for the two youngest girls who escaped death by clinging to tree branches when the waters rose. Their story was actually featured in an issue of "Reader's Digest." He was loved very much by my grandfather, who told me so many stories of him and how kind he was when I was little that I, despite never having met him, love him too.

I was in a boating accident in 1997 in which I almost drowned. I thought of my great-grandfather then, and have never forgotten those feelings. It's almost unbearable to think of what he must've gone through then.

Thank you for remembering the victims of this terrible tragedy. Even though it was 80 years ago, they still have relatives who care.

you are welcome

You are most welcome. And I thank you for sharing your story on this tragedy, which is surprisingly not remembered in many parts of the United States.
God Bless

Grandfather survived this storm

My grandfather survived this great storm. He was in Belle Glade farming beans for another man. When the storm hit he managed to get to a tree and climb to the top. After the storm he moved back to the North Florida panhandle and never came south again. He refused to talk about the storm or the times after it was over. Until the day he died if a thunder storm or bad rain storm came over the house he would always get everybody to the center of the house for safety. He never got over the fear of bad weather from then on.

My grandfather

Arlan was also my grandfather - the father of my father who was 10 years old and who was with his mother and 3 siblings in a concrete building (he was oldest of the great uncles of which you speak). Your great grandfather / my grandfather was actually trying to save this other family - some of whom perished - by placing them in the attic of a house which later was washed off the foundation and crashed into a church building. The oldest daughter who actually survived, told the story later to my father and grandmother. If you want to know what she said, e-mail me and I will share all that with you - Just heard the story again this weekend while visiting with my 94 year old father.