Rebuilding After The Great Hurricane of 1926


Miami Herald headlines the day after the Great Hurricane of 1926. Courtesy of the Miami Herald. 

Miami’s flourishing land boom was put to a halt with the Great Hurricane of 1926.  The storm demolished much of the city but was particularly destructive in black Miami, where homes were not constructed as well as those in white sections.  The storm stands as an example of how poor communities are more vulnerable to natural disasters. 

The hurricane made landfall on September 17, 1926, with winds registering at 115 miles per hour by 4:00 A.M.  Black resident Rebecca Gibson Johnson recalled the storm, “I looked outside and saw the strangest thing.  Everything was yellow.  It was the middle of the night and everything had a yellow glow.  I called my husband and he looked out.  He said he hadn’t seen anything like that in his life either.  By that time, the wind was already taking our roof off.  We saw the roof was starting to life, so my husband got on the roof to try and nail it down.  But he couldn’t.  The storm just kept getting worse.”  

As daylight broke, all was calm as the eye of the storm passed over the city.  Hardly anyone at this point had been hurt, and people were literally dancing in the eye of the storm.  At 6:30 A.M., the second half of the storm slammed ashore, with winds of 138 miles per hour.  The water level at the mouth of the Miami River rose nearly twelve feet, drowning many.  Wind gusts tore the roofs off of 10,000 homes, and property losses were at least $13,000,000, according to the Miami Herald.  

The city of Miami quickly rebuilt.  Miami’s population exploded from 29,571 in 1920 to 110,637 by 1930.  The city’s territory expanded from 2 square miles in 1920 to 43 square miles by 1925.  By the early 1930s, most of Miami’s black population of about 25,000 were still crowded into Colored Town.  Racial zoning practices meant there were few other places were black Miamians could live.  In the late 1930s, Dade county officials could no longer ignore the blight in Colored Town.  The Dade County Planning Board proposed a “negro resettlement plan,” aimed at resettling Colored Town’s residents to “three negro park locations.”  



Rebuilding After The Great Hurricane of 1926