Labor Day Hurricane

Episode #9

On September 2, 1935, a disaster was unfolding in the Florida Keys as a category 5 hurricane with winds estimated near 185 mph made landfall on Long Key in Monroe County. As the storm’s center moved on shore, the barometric pressure was recorded at 892 millibars, the lowest on record in the U.S. The storm devastated the Keys and killed hundreds, including over 250 WWI veterans who were helping to build a new railroad across the Keys.

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 remains the strongest on record to ever strike the United States with an estimated pressure of 982 millibars and winds over 185 miles per hour. The storm killed over 400 as it swept across the Florida Keys on Labor Day in 1935. Dr. Steve Lyons says we need a new way to classify the threats of hurricanes and hopes NOAA will retire the Saffir-Simpson rating scale and instead use a threat scale based on each individual storm. 

Key Takeaways

  • [02:05] Why is this hurricane still a history maker in the books?
  • [02:45] – It was the 1930s and although forecasting hurricanes was less advanced than today, I understand they still had some inclination that there was a storm headed their way?
  • [03:52] I understand this storm, like Hurricane Laura, intensified quickly before landfall?
  • [06:35] I understand the Keys are not susceptible to storm surge, but in this case, the storm brought a historically high storm surge for local standards?
  • [08:03] This storm came 35 years after the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, you would have thought the U.S. Weather Bureau would have developed better forecast capabilities to predict these deadly hurricanes.
  • [12:08] Hurricane surge was also a big deal in the recent impact from Hurricane Laura, we heard the National Hurricane Center call the storm surge – un-survivable. Why do you think the NHC used that type of warning for that recent storm?
  • [15:20] While at the Weather Channel you were pushing for a change to the Saffir-Simpson Scale to make classifying hurricane threats more accurate based on the type of threats the storm will bring.
  • [18:50] As we wrap up this podcast, we can’t say goodbye without recognizing your recent retirement from decades supporting the National Weather Service, what is going to be career highlight as you retire?
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Steve Lyons
Dr. Steve Lyons
Meteorologist in Charge, retired
National Weather Service

Dr Steve Lyons, was most recently the Meteorologist In Charge (MIC) at the National Weather Service Forecast Office, in San Angelo TX from May 2010 until his recent retirement in August 2020. Dr. Lyons has a distinguished career with previous positions as:

  • Adjunct professor - Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University (1998-present)
  • Acting Deputy Director - National Weather Service - Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, TX (August - November 2011)
  • Hurricane, Wave & Tsunami Expert - The Weather Channel, Atlanta, GA (March 1998 - May 2010)
  • Chief, Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch - NOAA, National Hurricane Center (1994-1998)
  • Techniques Development Meteorologist - NOAA/NWS/SRH/SSD Ft. Worth, TX (1992-1994)
  • Adjunct Professor - Department of Meteorology, University of Hawaii, (1992-2000)
  • Associate Professor - Department of Meteorology, School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology University of Hawaii (1991-1992)
  • Assistant Professor - Department of Meteorology, Texas A&M University (1987-1991)
  • Assistant Director - Cooperative Institute for Applied Meteorological Studies, Texas A&M University (1989-1991)
  • Research Scientist and Lecturer - Department of Atmospheric Sciences University of California at Los Angeles (1987)
  • Consultant - Ocean Wave Forecasting for “Surfline” Huntington Beach CA, (1986-1987)
  • Television Meteorologist - KTIE TV, Ventura, CA, (1985-1987)
  • Navy Research Meteorologist & Mission Support Forecaster - Pacific Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, CA (1985-1987)
  • Research Scientist - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University (1984-1985)
  • Research Scientist & Hurricane/Marine Expert - Institute for Storm Research, Houston, TX (1982-1984)
  • Assistant Professor - Department of Meteorology, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX (1982-1984)


  • For more information on the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 visit the National Geographic’s account here.