Great New England Hurricane of 1938
As the East Coast prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, New Englanders may be recalling a similarly threatening storm that walloped the area 73 years ago. The photo above reveals some of its devastation. Wrecked buildings and a sailboat are strewn across the tracks of the Bostonian train in Connecticut.
Before the dawn of satellite observations, a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane snuck up on New England in mid-September 1938. What became known as “The Great New England Hurricane of 1938″ started as a tropical cyclone off Cape Verde, Africa, on September 10. It crossed the Atlantic and threatened Florida on September 20.
Most forecasters believed that the storm would head northeast and spin itself out in the North Atlantic Ocean. Instead, the storm accelerated northward, reaching forward speeds of up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour! It made a beeline for New England, and came ashore without warning at Long Island on the afternoon of September 21 as a Category 3 hurricane.
Additional photos and background on the historic storm are available in ClimateWatch’s 2010 article A Hurricane in New England? written by Connecticut SeaGrant’s Peg Van Patten—whose father was a freelance reporter who documented the storm damage.
Photo by A. Morgan Stewart, The Day, courtesy of Peg Van Patten.