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




Restored communications in storm-lashed New England disclosed today a major disaster resulting from yesterday's unprecedented hurricane and tidal waves.
By mid-afternoon the number of known dead in New England was 261. Another 35 were added in New York, New Jersey and Quebec, making the total 296.
With flood waters rising toward record breaking heights in the populous, three state Connecticut river valley, authorities feared the death toll would mount even higher before the waters receded.
Death totals by states at 2 P.M.:
Rhode Island -- 138.
Massachusetts -- 72.
Connecticut -- 42.
New Hampshire -- 9.
New York -- 32.
New Jersey -- 1.
Quebec (Montreal) -- 2.
The full horror of the storm as it swept northward over Long Island and New England did not become apparent until telephone communications were reestablished between Boston and Rhode Island, the state hardest hit by the worst disaster of the region's history.
The New England toll had been recorded at 134, but the figure rose to 250 within a few minutes after reports started pouring in from Rhode Island and a short time later to 261.
Huge tides piled up by the 100-mile-an-hour hurricane accounted for most of the destruction. Walls of water descended upon Providence and other coast towns and rolled inland as far as one-fifth of a mile.
Federal weather experts in Washington were surprised by reports from the storm regions.
Forcaster CHARLES L. MITCHELL said "there was nothing in the behavior of the storm as it progressed northward to lead us to believe that such winds would be experienced in New England."
The speed with which the Connecticut river rose gave inhabitants along it and tributary valleys in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut little time to survey the damage caused by the wind. National guardsmen made haste to evacuate families from threatened lowlands.
The death toll in the hurricane which smashed across Long Island, New England and parts of New York, New Jersey and Quebec mounted hourly today with the known dead, reaching 296 shortly before noon.
Upwards of 150 persons persons were missing in New England and Long Island. As rescuers searched wreckage over the six-state area it appeared likely that the death toll would soar.

Damage Placed at $100,000,000.
Damage to homes, shipping, crops, highways, communications and parks was estimated in excess of $100,000,000.
The American Red Cross, coast guard and WPA mobilized its forces to combat threats of disease in scores of communities whose utilities services were disrupted.
To expedite movement of supplies the Interstate Commerce commission suspended all railroad car and freight service regulations in New England.
The coast guard assigned 2,500 men to rescue and relief work and WPA authorities sent workers out to clear away debris and help to get highway traffic moving.
Washington headquarters of the three agencies received scores of emergency requests from communities where conditions were described as "acute" or "desperate."
The hurricane struck first on Long Island, ripping south shore resort communities to pieces. Fifteen of the island's dead were killed at Westhampton, where luxurious homes built upon sand dunes were blown into the sea. Bodies were found for miles along the beach.

Wind Reached 90 Miles an Hour.
The 90 mile an hour wind piled up a 40 foot tidal wave which demolished everything in its path.
The hurricane swept across the island and struck Port Jefferson with full force. The "Park City," a steam ferry operating between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, Conn., was blown off its course and was unreported for more than six hours with 20 passengers and a crew of five. The vessel was found nine miles off Stratford shoals and was taken in tow by the coast guard harbor tug Manhattan. All aboard were reported safe.
The storm, accompanied by torrents of rain, ripped across the Sound, kicking up raging surf which pounded the Connecticut coast. The hurricane, followed by flood and fire, wreaked upon Connecticut the worst disaster in that state's history.

Highest Water On Record.
The Connecticut river and tributary streams rose to levels higher than those of the disastrous 1936 flood, the worst on record. The state estimated its damage at more than $30,000,000.
In New York state the Hudson river was rising toward 1936 flood levels. U. S. Weather Observer GUSTAV LINDGREN at Albany said the stream would reach a crest at 2 p.m. today.
Tidal waves, floods and wind created similar havoc in Massachusetts, isolating Cape Cod from the rest of the state and leaving scores of communities desolated.



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.