Alternative University

Transportation Infrastructure

Florida Keys Hurricane 1935

Matecumbe Area

The Matecumbe Area is two long islands, and nearby smaller islands that are more compact. The two long islands are called Upper Matecumbe Key and Lower Matecumbe Key. Both are oriented perpendicular to (blocking) water flow between the Gulf of Mexico (Florida Bay) and the Atlantic Ocean.

When the 1935 hurricane struck, an evacuation train was dispatched from Miami to Upper Matecumbe. However, the train was late, because it had not been prepared in advance, taking a long time to leave Miami.

It is remarkable that an evacuation train was not at the ready when storm warnings were issued, given that it was hurricane season, and tropical cyclones had already been evident in that human time scale window.

Figure 1:  Storm damage to railroad tracks, Lower Matecumbe Key 1909.

The evacuation train was late, arriving during the 1935 hurricane. The storm surge knocked much of the train off its tracks in Upper Matecumbe.

Figure 2:  Evacuation train cars washed off tracks by storm surge of the 1935 hurricane, Upper Matecumbe Key. The locomotive stayed on the tracks.

Figure 3:  Train cars of the evacuation train washed off the tracks by the storm surge of the 1935 hurricane, Upper Matecumbe Key.

The force of the storm surge was testament to the erosion power of tropical cyclones to shape the Keys. These storm surges, over the centuries, shape streams and creeks that split the Keys into multiple islands that become oriented and grow parallel to the water currents.

The Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys are in the early stages of being split into multiple islands that would have elongated parallel to water flow (transverse to present orientation). Recurring island-shaping storm damage will be forthcoming.

Mitigation of storm damage will result from opening up the surrounding waterways — on both sides of the Matecumbe Area, and in between Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys.

After Whale Harbor (see previous page of this report), the next opening at present, between the Gulf and Atlantic, is between Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys, consisting of several dikes connected with bridges.

The first dike from Upper Matecumbe Key is the Tea Table dike:

Figure 4:  Aerial photograph showing the Tea Table dike connecting with a short bridge to Upper Matecumbe (above). Florida Bay (Gulf of Mexico) is on the left, Atlantic Ocean is on the right. Another narrower levee (lower right, near red cones) is perpendicular to this dike and leads to Tea Table Key (a small compact island in the Ocean to the right of this photograph, not shown).

The Tea Table dike is perpendicular to water flow. It needs to be oriented parallel to water flow (like the narrow levee that connects it to Tea Table Key). The dike should be removed, and its fill used to create a new artificial island parallel to water flow.

The narrow levee to Tea Table Key in the Ocean may not need to be removed, because it is already parallel to water flow. Fill from removing the Tea Table dike could be used to widen the levee to Tea Table Key. The fill could also create an artificial island into the Gulf, in-line with the Tea Table Key access levee, all parallel to water flow.

Figure 5:  Rough sketch of possibly replacing the Tea Table dike with an artificial island extending into the Gulf parallel to water flow.

This needs to be done for all of the dikes between Upper and Lower Matcumbe. All should be removed and their fill could be used to create artificial islands elongated parallel to water flow, connected with bridges that are high enough to clear storm surge, with one bridge higher than the rest for passage of taller boats. The new land could include parks, boating facilities, fishing docks, etc. 

< Prev: Whale Harbor    
    Next: Long Key >
Florida Keys Hurricane 1935
Page 1 : 
Page 2 : 
Page 3 : 
Page 4 : 
Page 5 : 
Page 6 : 
Page 7 : 
Page 8 : 
Page 9 : 
Page 10 : 
Page 11 : 
Page 12 : 
Bridge Design
Marine Navigation
Snake Creek
Windley Key
Whale Harbor
Matecumbe (this page)
Long Key

Return to Architecture, Engineering & Construction

Return to Alternative University