Friday, August 26, 2011

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.
A simple meteorological map showing the 1938 storm's path

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.
This is supposed to be animated.

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.
Storm surge wipes out boardwalk
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.
storm surge
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.
Small and large towns severely damaged
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:


  1. This storm looks like the real deal. I am so used to the weathermen overstating everything that I tend to dismiss some of what they say. Most of the big storms that they have gone ga-ga over in this area, have not happened or were less than what they predicted. One weatherman even had to leave town because he got so "enthusiastic" about his reports, and then nothing happened. He even got death threats.

    This time I am praying they are wrong again.

  2. Hope this passes harmlessly far from the coast and does not come inland!

  3. I'm hoping for the sake of all people on the eastern seabord that this thing dissolves into thin air. Are we prepared for the unexpected? No. I don't think any of us are truly prepared. For most of us, the unexpected will cause us to respond with knee jerk reactions and babbling incomprehensible prayer.

  4. Hi Susan, hope you are well. Since I've been back from holiday, we've moaned about how much rain we have, taking for granted the peace of mind we do have about the weather. We left florida as the rains were starting a week exactly and we pray for the many familys that homes or lives are effected. Blessing Amanda

  5. We are right in the path of Irene and I have to say I am a bit nervous about this one. Trying to find D batteries has been a night mare for people and Water...well the shelves are empty.
    Be safe.
    Blessings, Joanne

  6. Susan, first I want to thank you for commenting on my blog posting today. I plan in a future post to explain why I think my grandmother was the way she was. No excuses. Just the explanation that I've come to as the years have passed and I've learned what growing older means.

    Second, I find your blog so interesting. I've read several of your postings now. Today's on the 1938 hurricane astounds me. I never knew about this. (I would have been two at the time it occurred.) I'm going to go to the links you gave us and learn more.

    I so love history. Finding out where we have come from and what the people before us hoped and dreamed and dreaded and endured. And what they triumphed over. Thank you.

    I'm so glad you posted on my blog because in that way, I've found yours.

  7. Once again, Susan, thank you for commenting on my Saturday's blog posting. And thank you for appreciating that little girl. I have come home to her now and have embraced, I believe, the happiness and joy and contentment that was so much a part of her before all this happened.


Go won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!