On Labor Day, September 2, 1935, a major hurricane bore down on the Florida Keys, a string of islands separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean. The hurricane, one of only two Category 5 storms ever recorded in the United States, made landfall at Key West, the most populous of the keys. As day turned to night, heavy rains and winds of over 150 miles an hour rolled over the island, destroying virtually everything standing. Amid the destruction, infected rats began roaming the island, and by morning, the first of the zombies appeared. Many islanders mistook the zombies for dazed hurricane survivors and the plague spread across the island like wildfire. To make matters worse, the roads and bridges connecting the keys to the mainland had been washed out by the storm. The islanders had no way to escape. Scores of people drowned when they chose to leap into the choppy surf rather than face the voracious zombies.
Within days, troops from all over the south converged on Key West in a variety of sea craft. They established a beachhead on the south side of the island and went about the process of extermination. It took three weeks to secure the island. A total of 3500 people were infected and destroyed.