In October 1947, Fort Lauderdale was hit by what the local newspapers called ‘a freakish tropical disturbance’ which brought torrential rains to South Florida. It also gave some airline passengers the ride of their life.
Damage by the wind was minor – gusts were only up to about 75 miles per hour – but the flooding was felt by almost everyone. Streets flooded and residents took to their rooftops to await rescue. Flood waters were up to six feet deep.
Meanwhile, A DC-4 airliner had left Havana after receiving faulty information – they were under the impression that a flight to South Florida was perfectly safe and wouldn’t be affected. The crew believed that the storm would have passed but they found themselves virtually in the eye of the hurricane.
At least seven passengers simply passed out due to sheer terror. Others sweated visibly. All prayed. Passengers said that the plane was tossed about ‘like a feather’ in the storm. The aircraft was blown upwards due to air blasts and then it would lurch down, falling from the skies. This was all to the accompaniment of lightening and at one point, a ball of St Elmo’s fire was seen across a wing.
The cabin door flew open, showing the pilots battling the controls. They located Miami airport but then the heavy rains just blanked it from sight. This happened over and over. In desperation the pilots headed to Nassau where they were able to land the plane. In the early morning of the next day the plane took off again for Miami.
After an uneventful flight it arrived at Miami and the passengers were told that a landing gear signal was showing that one wheel would not operate. Cabin staff gave them crash instructions as the plane circled the airport for over an hour.
The passengers braced for the crash as the plane descended to attempt a landing. The runway was flooded with over a foot of water. The landing was smooth and trouble-free. The landing gear signal was giving incorrect information due to an electrical short during the wild hurricane ride on the previous evening. Phew.