The strongest landfall in US history was the Great Labor Day Hurricane, whose 185mph winds walloped Florida's Upper Keys in 1935. The Sun Sentinel in August 2015 took a look back at the deadly storm on its 80th anniversary, opening with this ominous line: It "was so powerful that it sand-blasted clothing off of people who got caught in its vicious winds." USA Today echoes that, more gruesomely: "Some people were literally sandblasted to death." In 2014, the Miami Herald reported 423 bodies were found in the immediate wake of the storm; 259 of those who died were WWI veterans who were constructing the Overseas Highway through the Keys and were living in government camps.
Some islands were only connected via railroad bridges at the time, explained the Herald, and though a train was sent to evacuate the veterans, it ended up getting caught up in the storm surge. The railroad never resumed operation. The hurricane was one of only three Category 5 storms to have hit the US in recorded history, the others being Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. But USA Today notes another storm reigns as the deadliest: a 1900 hurricane that ravaged Galveston, Texas, and killed as many as 8,000. (Here's how to keep tabs on Irma.)