The Great Hurricane of 1938 has also been called the Great New England Hurricane and the Long Island Express. Whatever you choose to call it, it was one of the most destructive tropical cyclones to hit the United States.
The Hurricane landed on Long Island on Wednesday, September 21, as a category 3. However, it was at one point a category 5. The storm formed on the coast of Africa and quickly became a Category 5; luckily, when it landed, it was downgraded to a 3.
Yet many report that it could have been a strong Category 4. The Hurricane killed 682 people and destroyed more than 57,000 homes, with an estimated property loss of $306 million. The Hurricane was the most deadly in recorded New England history.
The storm was underestimated and was reported further south than it was. It was even downgraded to a tropical storm, and some only mentioned gale-force winds, but it was not noted as a tropical storm or Hurricane.
However, the only one to have been concerned that the storm would be stronger than projected was a rookie meteorologist, 28-year-old Charles Pierce. When he presented his findings, he was overruled by chief forecaster Charles Mitchell and senior staff.
He was confident a hurricane would hit New England. When the storm was 75 miles southeast of Atlantic City, it was confirmed to pass over Long Island and Connecticut. It was also stronger and larger than the advisory stated.
Most deaths occurred in Rhode Island and others in the storm's path; over 700 were reported injured. Thirty-five percent of New England's forest area was affected. Due to a lack of technology in 1938, most Long Island residents were not warned and could not prepare and evacuate.
Long Island was hit first, and the storm was called the Long Island Express. Winds were up to 150mph, and waves surged between 25 and 35 feet.
In Long Island, the storm hit eastern Long Island, with 29 deaths and 21 deaths in other areas. When the storm surge hit Rhode Island at 3:50 p.m., 100 people were killed instantly. The tide was already high due to the autumnal equinox and the full moon.
The storm continued affecting Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Delaware, and Quebec. However, the further north it went, the less damage.