The Worst South Coast Hurricane Wasn’t the 1938 Storm


The 1938 hurricane was legendary. Few people alive today have a vivid memory of how this storm rolled in on September 21, 1938, taking almost everyone by surprise.

In 1938, there was no weather channel. ACCU Weather and ABC6 StormTracker didn’t exist yet, and there certainly wasn’t Doppler radar or other sophisticated satellite weather forecasting technology to give people an idea of ​​what was to come.

Hurricane damage

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According to the National Weather Service (NWS), “The Great New England Hurricane of 1938” hit Long Island and southern New England with maximum sustained winds of 121 miles per hour with a gust of 186 miles per hour. time recorded at Blue Hills Observatory.

The storm produced a maximum storm surge of 17 feet above normal high tide in Rhode Island and maximum wave heights of 50 feet in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

According to the NWS, the 1938 storm claimed 700 lives, 63,000 people were left homeless, 8,900 homes and buildings were destroyed, and approximately two billion trees were lost. Total damage in today’s dollars is estimated at $41 billion.

This is nothing, however, compared to the “great colonial hurricane of 1635”.

Attachment-Great Colonial Hurricane 1635

Brian Jarvinen of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory concluded that the 1635 hurricane “was probably the most intense hurricane in New England history”.

Jarvinen suspects the storm could have been “at least a powerful Category 3 hurricane on landfall with sustained winds of 125 mph and a central pressure of 938 mbar on landfall from Long Island and 939 mbar on landfall. on the continent”.

Wikipedia says, if correct, “this would be the strongest known hurricane north of Cape Fear, North Carolina.” The hurricane brought perhaps the strongest storm surge along the east coast in recorded history to 20 feet at the head of Narragansett Bay.

Because there were few written records of the 1635 storm, it is difficult to properly assess the extent of damage, death, and injury.

The last hurricane to make landfall in southern New England was Bob in August 1991.

The Worst South Coast Hurricane Wasn’t the 1938 Storm

Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

The Worst South Coast Hurricane Wasn’t the 1938 Storm

Barry Richard/Townsquare Media

Bob was one of the costliest hurricanes in New England history and twice impacted Rhode Island on Block Island and Newport as a Category 2 storm. At least 15 people died as a result of the storm.

I was vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard when Bob arrived causing massive havoc on the island.

Most New England hurricanes occur in August and September, but hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. Preparing for a hurricane is always a good idea.

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