Atlantic Coast, NY, NJ, NH, CT, MA, RI Hurricane "Long Island Express," Sept 1938

Napatree Point RI Before Hurricane Napatree Point RI After Hurricane Petersborough NH Flood fire 9-28-1938.jpg Hartford Connecticut Fire after the Hurricane Hurricane Force Winds Piles of Debris

The 1938 New England Hurricane (also referred to as the Great New England Hurricane and Long Island Express) was one of the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclones to impact New England. The storm formed near the coast of Africa on September 9, becoming a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale before making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Long Island on September 21. The hurricane was estimated to have killed 682 people, damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at US$306 million ($4.7 billion in 2016). Even as late as 1951, damaged trees and buildings were still seen in the affected areas. It remains the most powerful and deadliest hurricane in recent New England history, eclipsed in landfall intensity perhaps only by the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635.

The majority of the storm damage was from storm surge and wind. Damage was estimated at $308 million, (the equivalent of $4.8 billion adjusted for inflation in 2011 dollars), making it among the most costly hurricanes to strike the U.S. mainland. It is estimated that if an identical hurricane struck in 2005 it would have caused $39.2 billion (2005 dollars) in damage, due to changes in population and infrastructure.

Approximately 600 people died in the storm in New England, most in Rhode Island, and up to 100 people elsewhere in the path of the storm. An additional 708 people were reported injured.

In total, 4,500 cottages, farms, and other homes were reported destroyed. An additional 25,000 homes were damaged. Other damages included 26,000 automobiles destroyed and 20,000 electrical poles toppled. The hurricane also devastated the forests of the Northeast, knocking down an estimated 2 billion trees in New York and New England. Freshwater flooding was minimal, however, as the quick passage of the storm decreased local rainfall totals, with only a few small areas receiving over 10 inches (250 mm).


1938 "Long Island Express" Hurricane, MA

My mother was 16 years old at the time this hurricane occurred, and living in S. Dartmouth, MA, Padanaram Village. She and a group of friends were out after school, marveling at being able to 'lean on the wind' without danger of falling over.
They were standing on the sidewalk of a bridge across the river, looking at what was happening, joking around, when they suddenly discovered themselves ankle-deep in water.
Just about that time, as they were deciding they'd better scoot on home, a police officer came along and shooed them off the bridge. Had this been later in the event instead of at the onset, they would have been in serious danger, and I might not be here to relate my mother's tale.