The Great Hurricane of 1938 was the first major hurricane to strike New England since 1869. The system developed off the Cape Verde Islands around September 4, 1938. By 20 September, it was east of the Bahamas and had reached Category 5 status. At this point, the hurricane turned northward. Forecasters originally believed that the storm would recurve out into the Atlantic. However, the hurricane did not veer out into the ocean, and instead, its rapid, forward movement and a track over the warm Gulf Stream Current allowed it to travel far north. By the morning of 21 September, the hurricane was 160 to 240 km (100 to 150 mi) east of Cape Hatteras, NC. At that point, the hurricane accelerated to a forward motion of 96 to 112 km/h (60 to 70 mph) and made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane over Long Island, NY at 2:30 pm. The hurricane traveled across Providence, RI and Boston, MA by early evening on 21 September, and continued its northern track into New Hampshire, Vermont, and finally into Canada, while still moving at an unusually high speed.
With official forecasts only predicted overcast conditions, Southern New England residents were very much unaware of the approaching storm. Moreover, at the time of hurricane landfall, the tide was astronomically high due to the Autumnal Equinox (one of two times in the year when the sun is directly vertical to the equator, causing significant tides). As a result, an extremely destructive storm surge of 4.3-7.6 m (14-25 ft) was unleashed across areas of Connecticut through Cape Cod, MA. Four days prior to the arrival of the hurricane, a frontal system had also passed through the region, producing 432 mm (17 in) of rain. This, combined with the greater than 254 mm (10 in) of rainfall that occurred in some areas during the hurricane, intensified the effects of flooding throughout Southern New England.
Over 600 fatalities were the result of this hurricane, making it the deadliest hurricane in New England history. Over 8,900 homes, cottages, and farms were damaged or destroyed. The Southern New England marine community was devastated as entire fleets were lost and over 2,600 boats were destroyed with another 3,400 damaged. Overall, an estimated $306 million (1938 USD; $4.7 billion 2010 USD) of damage was caused.
Hurricanes their Nature and Impact on Society. Robert A. Pielke Jr. and Robert A. Pielke Sr. Pgs. 22, 199, 200, 201
Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Other Tropical Cyclones. Published by World Book
The National Hurricane Center, Hurricane History Page: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.html
The State University of New York: Suffolk County Community College. The Long Island Express:
The National Weather Service, Boston, MA Office: The Great New England Hurricane of 1938: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/hurricane/hurricane1938.shtml
Wikipedia: The New England Hurricane of 1938:
PBS, American Experience- The Hurricane of ’38: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hurricane38/
Spiegel Online International