This Friday will mark the 74th anniversary of the Hurricane of 1938, which was the first major hurricane to strike Long Island and the rest of New England since 1869. This was one of the most destructive storms to hit southern New England because the eye of the hurricane made landfall at the same time as an extremely high tide.
Amazingly, the storm formed near the coast of Africa and took 12 long days to cross the Atlantic and make its way up the Eastern Seaboard, before crashing ashore on September 21, first slamming Suffolk County then Connecticut.
Unlike most storms, due to the warm water this hurricane did not weaken on its way toward Southern New England, where it was tracked as a category 5, but made landfall as a category 3. Hurricane force winds occurred throughout most of southern New England, producing the strongest winds ever recorded in the region, with sustained winds of 121 mph and a peak gust of 186 mph.
I have researched some numbers, and typical of the internet, I have conflicting information, but one account said the hurricane caused 700 deaths, destroyed 4,500 homes, cottages and farms with 15,000 more damaged; destroyed 26,000 automobiles; downed 20,000 miles of electrical power and telephone lines; killed 1,700 livestock and up to 750,000 chickens; damaged or destroyed $2,610,000 worth of fishing boats (which was a lot back then!), equipment, docks, shore plants; and half of the entire apple crop at a cost of $2 million.
From East Hampton to Montauk, it was fishermen who paid the storm’s toll, coming close to wiping out their year-round industry. The storm isolated the Hampton community for two days, leaving the Napeague stretch under water. It created the Shinnecock Inlet, and it widened Moriches Inlet.
The total cost of the storm for Long Island was estimated to be $6.2 million, in 1938 prices. To date it remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in recorded New England history, eclipsed in landfall intensity by the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635, that hit the Virginia Colony at Jamestown and the Massachusetts Bay Colony during August 1635.
History has shown that these powerful storms are isolated and rare but do and will occur with long-term frequency. There were 70 years between the first two big hurricanes, and we are now at 74 years. Frighteningly, case studies have shown that the next time a storm like the ’38 hurricane comes through, it might be the greatest disaster in U.S. history. It’s difficult to imagine the mayhem that will result when everyone tries to evacuate using the only road to our area.
On the bright side, the hurricane brought an economic rise to the unemployment rate that was occurring due to the Great Depression. The standard wage of $2 per day caused thousands of people to flock to Long Island to assist with the cleanup work and repair. Interestingly, more than 2,700 men were brought into New York and New England by Bell Systems just to repair the downed phone lines. We do not need another storm but a spike in employment would be nice.
“The Long Island Express: Rare Photographs of East Hampton after the 1938 Hurricane” exhibit is currently on view at Clinton Academy.
On to current news and happenings.
Jack Marshall graduated from Berklee College of Music, with a bachelor’s degree in jazz composition.
As of Saturday it will be the official autumn season. There is still plenty to do before the short days of winter are upon us.
On Thursday, from noon to 2 p.m., is the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce Luncheon to be held at the American Hotel. Guest Speaker will be Randy Altschuler Republican, Conservative, Independent candidate for Congress. The fee is $50 with a cash bar. To RSVP call 324-0362.
On Saturday, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., the library will have an author’s talk on “Leave It to Boomer. “Author Jerry Zezima describes in hilarious detail his life in a household where he is surrounded by women. Please register at the reference desk, 324-0222 ext. 3, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and phone number.
The library has ongoing programs: for adults there is the Poetry Workshop on Mondays at 5:30 p.m.; ESL on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.; the monthly book club on the last Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m.; Mystery Book Club on the second Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m.; and the Monthly Sci-Fi Book Club, dates and times to be announced.
For children, the library has Sunday Story Time at 1:30 p.m.; Toddler Time on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.; Wiggle and Giggle With Books on Mondays at 11:30 a.m.; and Sights and Sounds Story Time on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. For teens there is Chess in the Courtyard on Tuesdays at 4 p.m.
For more information on library events visit www.easthamptonlibrary.org.
On Monday, I will be eight years cancer free. So I would like to send out a reminder to the ladies (and gents) to make an appointment for your annual health checkup.