WSVN — The Florida Keys in 1935– gorgeous, beautiful and starting to grow. 

Alma Pinder Dalton: "He had just built a new house"

Norman: "We had a two story home on the beach."

Back in ’35 people built their wood frame houses right on the beach. There were roads and cars, but no bridges from island to island. You had to use the ferry. To link the islands a YouTube video shows the overseas highway under construction. A thousand World War I vets were recruited to come down and do the work.

Then on Labor Day of 1935, word started to spread there was a storm coming.

Alma Pinder Dalton: "The Weather Bureau said we wasn’t gonna get it."

Alma Pinder Dalton is one of the few remaining survivors of the storm. The Weather Bureau may have said the storm wasn’t coming, but she says her daddy disagreed.

Alma Pinder Dalton: "We’re gonna get something. So we shuttered up the house and moved over to Uncle Lester’s to sit the storm out."

At the same time, the U.S. Government sent down a train to evacuate the veterans working on the bridge, but it would not make it in time.

As the sun set, each family tried to find the safest, closest house.

Norman: "We moved up to a little cottage."

As it grew dark, the wind picked up and the nightmare began.   

Norman: "The water started coming up. I remember water around my feet. And the roof went off."  

Alma Pinder Dalton: "We all got to the back door to go out. We was following my daddy out, and the house went to pieces."

The wooden houses were destroyed. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters were left struggling in a 20 foot wall of water that swept over Matecumbe and Islamorada.

Alma Pinder Dalton: "I was just hanging on to Uncle Fred."

Norman: "We’re floating, we’re a raft, we’re floating over the trees."
At the same time, the wind estimated at 185 miles per hour roared through. A devastating Category 5 storm.

Alma Pinder Dalton: "Everybody’s ears were pealed from the wind and the rain. It was terrible."     

Norman: "It was hard to breathe because of the pressure problem."

As the sun came up Norman will never forget what he saw.

Norman: "A lot of us didn’t have any clothes ’cause the wind had blown our clothes off."

And the beautiful Florida Keys were gone.

Norman: "Complete desolation."

Alma Pinder Dalton: "Everything was flat. It was just flat. There was just nothing."

The train that came to rescue the workers was torn from the tracks.

Sadly, there were bodies.

Alma Pinder Dalton: "Sophie and Aunt Camille was found under the refrigerator."

485 people died, 228 civilians and 257 veterans. So many bodies, they were tied to docks and stacked on land. Too many bodies to bury, so they cremated many of them.   

Barbara Edgar: "You’re looking at the dress that Alma Pinder Dalton wore in the ’35 hurricane."

Barbara Edgar is now trying to preserve the history of the 1935 storm in honor of her father.

Barbara Edgar: "He started researching, it years ago and of course, talking with the locals that went through it."

Irving Eyster hosted many of the ceremonies at the monument to the victims in Islamorada and wanted to be sure the legacy of this storm lived on. And if another one heads towards the Keys, Norman says remember the 1935 storm and do something simple.

Norman: "Secure what you got and leave." 
Good advice 80 years ago, it’s still good advice today.  Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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