September 21: Anniversary of the 1938 Hurricane

[dcwsb inline=”true”]Today marks the anniversary of The Big One. 74 years ago today the great 1938 Hurricane roared up the Eastern Seaboard and slammed into Long Island without warning. The catastrophic hurricane killed more than 600 people and caused more than $300 million (1938 dollars) in damage.

The storm was originally expected to strike Florida, and when it turned north before reaching the Sunshine State, forecasters believed that it was going to do what most hurricanes that threaten the Atlantic Coast do – turn northeast and head out to sea. Instead, the storm moved due north and raced across Long Island into Southern New England.

A Weather Map from the 1938 Hurricane
A Weather Map from the 1938 Hurricane

The storm made landfall in the mid to late afternoon on Long Island as a category three with sustained winds of 115 mph. The peak wind gust reported in Southern New England at the Blue Hill Observatory was an astounding 186 mph – to this date the highest hurricane wind gust ever reported in the United States. Blue Hill recorded sustained winds of 121 mph.

The massive storm surge of 14-20 ft. was made worse by the astronomical high tide close to the autumnal equinox. It is reported that 100 Rhode Islanders died as a direct result of the storm surge hitting the south coast. Providence, New Bedford and Falmouth were all under 8-10 ft. of water due to the surge.

There have been notable hurricanes to hit Southern New England since 1938, but none can compare to the Long Island Express. If you’re interested in learning more about the hurricane, I highly recommend reading Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti.

The following pictures were sent to me by a television viewer several years ago. They are primarily from the Riverside area of Rhode Island.

Fred Campagna

President and Chief Meteorologist - Right Weather LLC AMS Certified Consulting Meteorologist #756 AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist #126

Related Articles

Back to top button