Homestead, FL Hurricane, Sept 1945
The 1945 Homestead hurricane was the most intense tropical cyclone to strike the U.S. state of Florida since 1935. The ninth tropical storm, third hurricane, and third major hurricane of the season, it developed east-northeast of the Leeward Islands on September 12. Moving briskly west-northwestward, the storm became a major hurricane on September 13. The system moved over the Turks and Caicos Islands the following day and then Andros on September 15. Later that day, the storm peaked as a Category 4 hurricane on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale with winds of 130 mph (215 km/h). Late on September 15, the hurricane made landfall on Key Largo and then in southern Miami-Dade County, and across Homestead, FL where much damage was done and winds were clocked at Homestead Army Air Corps Base at 145 mph.
Thereafter, the hurricane began to weaken while moving across Florida, falling to Category 1 intensity only several hours after landfall late on September 15. Eventually, it curved north-northeastward and approached the east coast of Florida again. Late on September 16, the storm emerged into the Atlantic near St. Augustine and weakened to a tropical storm early on the following day. The cyclone made another landfall near the Georgia-South Carolina state line later on September 17. The system continued to weaken and transitioned into an extratropical cyclone near the border of North Carolina and Virginia early on September 18.
The storm caused significant damage and 22 deaths in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas. In Florida, the hardest hit area was Miami-Dade County. Most of the city of Homestead was destroyed, while at the Richmond Naval Air Station, a fire ignited during the storm burned down three hangars worth $3 million (1945 USD) each. Throughout the state, the strong winds destroyed 1,632 residences and damaged 5,372 homes others. Four people died, including the fire chief of the Richmond station. Homestead Army Air Corps Base, to the east of Homestead was completely destroyed. At the base, hurricane winds of "up to 145 miles per hour tore through the Air Field's buildings. Enlisted housing facilities, the nurses' dormitory, and the Base Exchange were all destroyed. The roof was ripped from what would later become building 741, the "Big Hangar". The base laundry and fire station were both declared total losses. The few remaining aircraft were tossed about like leaves."
In the Carolinas, the storm produced heavy rainfall, causing flash flooding, particularly along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Overall, the hurricane resulted in 26 fatalities and about $60 million in damage.
In south Florida, peak gusts were estimated near 150 mph (240 km/h) at the Army Air Base in Homestead. The strong winds destroyed 1,632 residences across the state, while 5,372 homes received damages. In Miami, gusts reached 107 mph (170 km/h), and damages were minimal, mostly snapped power lines, compared to communities in southern Dade County. Nearly 200 people were injured at the Richmond Naval Air Station, when a fire ignited during the storm, affecting three hangars worth $3 million each and destroying 25 blimps, 366 planes, and 150 automobiles. Damages to the Miami area was estimated at $40 million. An additional fire also destroyed a furniture factory and a tile manufacturing plant in the northwestern portion of downtown Miami. One death was reported in the area, the fire chief of Richmond's fire department, and 26 required hospitalization. Another death was recorded after a schooner ran aground in present-day Bal Harbour, Florida, killing its chief engineer.
Homestead was mostly flooded underwater, with the first floor of city hall and the fire department completely flooded and nearly all its residences destroyed. The historical Horde Hardware building collapsed while a local church was flatted by the winds. In the Florida Keys, hundreds of residences were damaged. The Florida East Coast Railway station at Goulds collapsed. Crop losses was estimated to be $4 million and most of its avocado harvest was destroyed. Four people died across the state.
Minor reports of damage was reported in Central and Northern Florida, with St. Augustine reporting a 70 mph (110 km/h) wind gust.
In Charleston, South Carolina, strong winds caused high waves, but the storm arrived at low tide and produced modest damage. Rainfall peaked at 8.0 inches (200 mm) at Belton, South Carolina. In Aiken, South Carolina, heavy precipitation caused damage to unpaved streets. Inland, the system produced heavy rainfall over North Carolina, peaking at 14.8 inches (380 mm) in Rockingham, North Carolina in the period covering September 13 through September 18.This rain led to saturated grounds, allowing new water to spill into streams. Many crop fields and dwellings were flooded near the Cape Fear River as levels rose to record heights. The towns of Moncure, Fayetteville, and Elizabethtown exceeded flood stage levels. Broken dams in Richmond County produced significant flash floods. Few deaths were reported, but economic losses were extensive. In Hopewell, New Jersey, the remnants of the system produced winds of 50 mph (80 km/h), though major damage was not reported.