The Great Hurricane of 1938 & Batten Down the Hatches!

My family and I left the house we were renting on Mecox Bay in Bridgehampton early this morning to return back to higher ground at our home in Greenwich.  I hope that all of you are safe and prepared for Hurricane Irene.  We are “batting down the hatches” as they say and bracing ourselves for a lot of rain and potential fallen trees, which can be both very scary and very dangerous.  During a storm last year, far from hurricane strength, our property lost between 10 and 15 trees.  Having spent ten years in North Carolina during my childhood and college years, I am familiar with hurricanes and their fury.  My husband grew up along the water in Virginia, and we take hurricane warnings seriously.

Hurricanes are a bit less common up in the NorthEast and last night it was informative to see the special report CBS news did on the New England Hurricane of 1938 — sometimes called the “Yankee Clipper” or “Long Island Express”.  When it hit in 1938, it was the first major hurricane to strike New England since 1869.  According to Wikipedia, it formed near the coast of Africa in September of 1938, becoming a category 5 hurricane.  It was still a category 3 hurricane when it hit Long Island on 9/21/38.  The hurricane killed between 682 and 800 people, damaged or destroyed more than 57,000 homes and caused $306 million worth of damage.  That number was a 1938 figure, so that number in 2011 terms would be $4.77 billion!  It went down in history as the deadliest hurricane in New England history.  Roughly 50 people out of the figure above that died were from Long Island and 29 of those died on Westhampton Beach, where we have also spent time.  The day after the storm, the bodies were laid out on the lawn of the country club at Westhampton Beach.   If you missed the news report last night, watch the video below.  It is fascinating.

With Hurricane Irene’s imminent approach over the New York metropolitan area, Elaine Quijano takes a look back at one of the most devastating storms ever to strike the region, the infamous Hurricane of 1938, which became known as the Long Island Express.
Photo – archives
Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Building on Main Street in Woods Hole, MA
A wave from the 1938 hurricane strikes a seawall in New England
Flooding in Hartford, CT
Connecticut River Floods
Devastation on Long Island from the hurricane dubbed the “Long Island Express”
Damage in Worcester, Massachusetts
The Rhode Island Yacht Club (RIYC), founded in 1875, is the oldest yacht club on Narragansett Bay.  The original clubhouse was destroyed by the Great Hurricane of 1938.  It was rebuilt and then in 1954, the second clubhouse was also destroyed when Hurricane Carol swept through.
Narragansett after the 1938 hurricane.
Katherine Hepburn pictured as she digged through rubble for her possessions after the 1938 hurricane destroyed her family home on Long Island Sound in Connecticut.  Hepburn, her mother, brother and servants had fled their home shortly before the hurricane of 1938 lifted it off its foundations, smashed it to pieces and washed the entire thing away.
Read more about the hurricane of 1938 on Wikipedia.  Stay off the roads and be safe!
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  1. Anonymous

    Wow – amazing pictures. What you have labeled as the Rhode Island Yacht Club is actually Edgewood Yacht Club in Cranston, RI. You can see the “EYC” on the building. I’m not sure if it was rebuilt but it looks the same today. I raced out of that club when I lived in RI.

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