The Great Hurricane--1938
On the night of September 20, 1938, the news on the radio was full of Hitler's pending invasion of Czechoslovakia. Severe weather wasn't mentioned; only light rain was forecast for the following day. In a matter of hours, however, a hurricane of unprecedented force would tear through one of the wealthiest and most populated stretches of coastline in America, obliterating communities from Long Island to Providence, destroying entire fishing fleets from Montauk to Narragansett Bay, and leaving seven hundred people dead. They never knew what hit them.
Early that morning, several fishermen heading out on calm seas noticed a sudden drop in the barometer and decided to turn back. Hurtling toward them at the unheard-of speed of 67 miles per hour was a fierce storm. It struck Long Island first with the tide at an all-time high under a full, equinox moon. The sea rose out of its shores like a demon, with waves riding a surge of fifty feet that hit the earth so hard they were registered by a seismograph in Alaska. Winds whipped up to 186 miles per hour, trashing boats and smashing homes from West Hampton to Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Using Newspaper reports, survivor testimony, and archival sources, Cherie Burns reconstructs this harrowing day and the amazing tales of heroism, survival, and loss that occurred: The Moore family, from Napatree Point, were swept out to sea huddled on a raft that was formerly their attic floor. Young Adam Nickerson was trapped on a northbound train to school, water rushing in and the trestle buckling underneath. Providence's urbanites stared in disbelieve as their city's swelling river drowned rush-hour commuters.
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