This past Sunday on the way to Clewiston, I found myself thinking about the Old Pahokee High School — listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1996 — which housed hundreds of residents during the 1928 hurricane that made landfall near West Palm Beach on September 16, 1928.
It remains, by National Hurricane Center estimates, the second-deadliest hurricane to hit the mainland United States, exceeded only by the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. It was the fourth-strongest hurricane ever to hit Florida, tearing “across the Everglades to giant, shallow Lake Okeechobee, where thousands of migrant workers were harvesting fall crops,” writes National Geographic. Many of the bodies of the migrant workers were washed into the Everglades and never recovered.
Following the 1928 Hurricane — naming of US storms began in 1953 — the majority of the Caucasian bodies were identified and buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. Those of African Americans and Bahamians were laid in a mass grave site on 25th Street and Tamarind Avenue in West Palm Beach. Another mass grave at Port Mayaca Cemetery contains the bodies of about 1,600 victims.
Located at 360 E. Main Street, Old Pahokee High was designed by architect William Manley King. Born in Macon, Georgia he moved to West Palm Beach in 1921, was appointed School Board architect in 1922 and at one time was credited with the design of 90% of the public schools in Palm Beach County.
Today, the school is undergoing renovations for future use, while the nearby Marina and Campground is open to the public. Also on Main Street, a still beautiful art deco building — formerly Prince Theatre — remains vacant waiting to relive its former glory since last being damaged by Tropical Storm Faye in 2008.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Dorian’s effect on the Bahamas — which made landfall Sunday afternoon with estimated sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts reaching 220 mph at Elbow Cay, Abacos — is being assessed.
The U.S. Agency for International Development said Tuesday it had deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to work with local authorities, humanitarian organizations, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Embassy to assess damage, identify needs and deliver assistance. USAID said it had begun to mobilize plastic sheeting, hygiene kits, water buckets and chain saws.