On a warm but mostly cloudy October night in 1935, recordbreaking crowds danced at a new club on the boulevard in Key West. While friends swayed to "slow fox trots and waltzes," eighty miles north-east, along the railway route between Key West and Miami, lay the debris of storm-tossed houses, a destroyed railroad, and ruined highway system. Initially predicted to hit Key West, the storm had instead hit the Upper Keys in the complete darkness of night, September 2, 1935, Labor Day weekend. Producing the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded over land in North America, its 200-mile-per-hour winds and crushing surge leveled buildings, tossed rail cars off their tracks, and killed at least 400 people. The dead included many from the tightly knit "conch families" community of Upper Keys dwellers, and hundreds of federal relief laborers, largely World War I veterans, encamped in canvas tents near their construction sites. With national investigations in the works following up on the deaths of hundreds ofveterans, local officials prioritized transportation needs for what they hoped would be a "banner tourist season." For dancers at the club and other residents, relief at being spared was descending into panic and depression as they realized their practical isolation, a different kind ofexistential threat. The Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) connecting them to peninsular Florida was in ruins. The highway system, supplemented at intervals by an island-hopping ferry service, was unusable. Many Keys residents favored repair of the railroad, but a competing proposal supported construction of a raised "super-highway" for cars, to replace the crippled train line. The highway would run along the FEC railroad right-of-way. "Many people who favor the 'super-highway,' do not realize the far-reaching results to the future," said the pro-railroad Committee of Division Street School Teachers, one group who doubted car traffic could adequately replace known train revenues.

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