The condition of this October 23, 1924 Stuart Messenger article makes it difficult to read, but it is important to the history of the St. Luice Canal whose 100 year anniversary is coming up next year in 2024.
In my research, I have noticed the final date of construction of the canal varies in historic documents. Sometimes I see 1925 or 1926. I have chosen to use 1924 because that is the official date used by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.
This article entitled “Storm Damage Comparatively Light—Heaviest Rain in Fifty Years,” may shed light on why the completion date of the Everglades Drainage District is hard to pin down.
The bolded line under the headline reads: “Fifteen Inches in Two Days–Trains Stalled for Several Hours–Roads Out North and South–Canal Around Locks–Local Damage Very Light–Wires Kept Open With Few Interruptions.”
Trying to be optimistic, the article begins:
“Stuart is back to normal and is counting up its comparatively small losses after the heaviest rainfall in history. Fifteen inches of rain fell in less that forty-eight hours. Rainfall for the past week has been particularly heavy. On Saturday it rained steadily all day and far into to the night. Sunday’s rainfall was heavy and continuous, all day Monday the downpour continued in to early hours of Tuesday morning…”
~The railroad washed out at Rio…
~The river is the highest within the memory of the oldest inhabitants and backed up over the sea wall both north and south of the county bridge…
~The St Lucie hotel dock went out…
~The river washed away fifteen feet of high ground in front of the hotel annex…
~Reports from the west lock on the St. Lucie canal are to the effect that the canal has cut through around the lock and is digging a wide channel…
~Homes on the South Fork were inundated…
~Water is pouring into the river from the back county in an immense volume. …
The erosion cutting around the lock of the St. Lucie Canal creating a wide channel would have spelled failure for controlling the waters of Lake Okeechobee and surrounding basins. Water pouring in from Allapattah Flats known as the “back county” would have exacerbated an already very dangerous situation.
Lost in time, today we read about an October 23rd, 1924 storm where Stuart, Florida experienced a major rain event ironically occurring right around the time the St. Lucie Canal was being completed or was “complete.” Maybe that is why some articles say the canal was finished in 1925 or 1926 when it was really first completed in 1924? It is important for me to get the date right.
If only it had never had never been completed…
8 thoughts on “The Great Rain of 1924 – Postponing the St. Lucie Canal”
I learn so much from you & your mom. Thanks!
So. About 100 years between major rain events?
Good story. Thanks. I enjoy reading them.
Really glad you enjoy! Thanks for writing!
Thanks for your energy and passion for sharing these interesting historical stories. I appreciate reading about them and learning.
Mike you are the greatest river cheerleader of all! Solidarity!
I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for a few years now. I did a some research into this rainfall event, and learned a few things.This was one of two separate extreme tropical cyclone rainfall event which impacted SEFL in October of 1924.
The first, a moderate strength (60 mph) Tropical Storm (#9), was centered over the Gulf of Mexico, well to the west of Florida, but was part of a prolonged wet period which produced between 5-15″ of rainfall up and down the entirety of the Florida east coast from October 4-10.
The second, which occurred only days later, was the infamous “Great Cuba Hurricane of 1924”. Heavy rain fell along, and well ahead (north) of its center, with between 1 and 2 FEET falling across SOFL from Oct 18-23.
While I could not find daily/monthly rainfall totals for the PSL/Stuart area, there are records avaialble for Vero Beach for that month. 25.01″ of rain fell there that month, including almost 12″ from the first system and nearly 9″ from the second (during the 2-day period where 15″ fell at Stuart).
Given the heaviest rainfall totals occurred south of Vero Beach during both events, one can probably assume that between 2.5 and 3 FEET of rain fell near the Inlet entrance that month, a truly historical month in terms of weather.
National Weather Service
Dear Tony, First I am honored that you read my blog! Thank you for writing. I read with amazement your comments/research into the storms of 1924 that would be linked to the almost destruction of the St. Lucie Canal. Really interesting! Thank you for documenting. My gosh, those numbers! Mind blowing rainfall as we sometimes experience today. I am thinking of Ft. Lauderdale of most recently. You have totally made my day by “chiming in.” Thank you so much and I will read more of your work and insights of history and try to put out another blog post for you to add to! I cannot stop thinking about 3feet! All the best and thank you for your work at the National Weather Service.