This is the ‘hurricane season’ traditionally. The news is covering the on-coming Hurricane Irene, which is expected to move along the eastern coastline from Florida and on up to where? Whether it moves back out to sea or whether it will lose its hurricane status is anyone’s guess. At least, here in 2011, the news and the National Weather Service are able to make a reasonable timely forecast, and prepare the citizens to evacuate, or to get in supplies.
We expect this forewarning; we have grown accustomed to having the ‘heads-up-y’all’ that technology and rapid communications provide us. However, it was not always that way.
In 1938, the U.S. Weather Bureau consisted of a few men, a telephone, maps of currents and winds, telegraph equipment, knowledge of history, and precious little else. One of the men, Charlie Pierce was a junior forecaster in the U.S. Weather Bureau. He was certain that there was a hurricane heading for the Northeast, but the chief forecaster discounted Mr. Pierce. It had been over a century since such a hurricane had hit the Northeast.
The years of 1937 and on were the pre-War years and unstable political conditions existed all over the world, so the possible hurricane Charlie Pierce was predicting was not news as real news went at the time. By the time it was obvious that there was going to be one amazingly destructive hurricane, it was too late to send out warning.
The destruction was unimaginable, and can only be truly understood by reading accounts from that time. On September 21, the Category 3 “Great New England Hurricane” made land-fall along Long Island; it destroyed at least 150 luxury beach homes (including the family home of Katherine Hepburn, who was there at the time). Unknown numbers of homes and people were pulled out into the ocean.
The hurricane moved along the coast up to Connecticut and Rhode Island, where the state was nearly under water. Many people, including children in school buses, were swept out to the ocean and never recovered. It moved up northward across Massachusetts and on over northern New England, finally losing its strength and fading over Canada.
Final numbers? It is estimated that 700 people were killed outright by the hurricane, and 600 of them were from Long Island and southern New England. The cost in damages in 1938 terms were $306 million, which is about $18 billion in current terms. Other estimates put the number much higher.
|People were in shock as they read the papers.|
This event obviously made an impact on me. We are spoiled in many ways to expect ample warnings about horrific events like the 1938 hurricane.
What happens when the unexpected happens, like the East coast earthquake a few days ago? Are we ready? To carry the question even further, are we ready physically and spiritually for when the unexpected rumbles over and under us?
What do you think?
For further information on the 1938 Great Hurricane, please go to the following sites: