Turn on the news these days and you will see images of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans from two years ago after Katrina devastated the area to the slow rebirth of communities as property owners rebuild. All of the images serve to remind us of the powerful force of nature. After seeing the more recent effects of Hurricane Dean, it would be refreshing to see city and community planners put restoration of natural buffer zones into the mix of rebuilding. As evidenced when Dean came ashore, the areas that had marsh, and mangrove lands perserved came through the storm much better as those areas helped to absorb some of the power of the rising tidal surge. The Keys saw the effects of tidal surge during Hurricane Wilma, which approached from the less protected bay side of the islands, and was devastated by it back during the Labor Day storm of 1935.
Some of the last remaining survivors of the 1935 Labor Day storm that still live in the area will hold a service to remember those that lost thier lives and are now entombed beneath the Hurricane Memorial located at MM 81.8 in Islamorada. The storm was a category 5 and resulted in the deaths of 423 people. Victims of the storm were found as far away as Cape Sable and Flamingo. One survivor I spoke to talked about the great areas of land in Lower Matecumbe that just “disappeared” as the storm surge that moved across the narrow island receded. She recalled giant holes in the coral rock which was stripped of topsoil that impeded access to thier family home.
The Keys have faced many storms of the years and the resolve of the community along with the protection provided by the reef has keep our lifestyle alive and flourishing. So far, this season has been quiet, but as we locals know, season has just begun – we don’t breathe a sigh of relief until the month of September passes.