Katrina's Growth Echoed 1935's "Storm of Century"
Hurricane Katrina's rampage across the U.S. Gulf Coast is causing uneasiness among officials in South Florida, where an even stronger hurricane blasted the Florida Keys 70 years ago today. Like the devastating hurricane that tore into Louisiana and Mississippi last Monday, the unnamed storm that struck the Keys on Labor Day 1935 rapidly intensified as it neared landfall. It became the most powerful hurricane ever to strike the United States.
Katrina's rapid intensification from 80 mph winds to 175 mph was similar to the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, which exploded from a tropical storm with winds of about 40 miles an hour (65 kilometers an hour) to a killer hurricane in about 30 hours. The storm's eye struck Long Key, Florida with winds of perhaps 200 miles an hour (320 kilometers an hour) and a storm surge that completely submerged parts of the island chain.
More than 400 people were killed, including about 260 World War I veterans who were working on a highway construction project. The veterans were being housed in flimsy beachfront work camps on the low-lying islands.
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