In the great tradition of the argument that history repeats itself, and in nod to the surge in storm photos circulating with the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, it seemed as good a time as any to pass on the legacy of another great New England storm, the Hurricane of 1938 (nicknamed the Long Island Express because our ancestors were witty.) The storm built up between 10 September to 20 September 1938 and came ashore on 21 September 1938. It basically pummeled New England for a few days, racing along the coast and particularly pounding Long Island, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. (New York City got a glancing smack and some rather severe flooding.)
The hurricane today is considered a Category 3 hurricane and cost between six to eight hundred lives. It also destroyed a total of 57,000 homes and caused a total, in 2012 dollars, of $4.7 billion in damage. It also knocked out power for much of the reason, sunk or wrecked 3000 ships, tore up local railroads, and smashed up forests throughout the region. It was up to that point one of the most powerful storms to hit New England and remains, to the present day, one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the region. Damage was reportedly still visible in some wild areas as late as 1951 and a few island communities were so badly destroyed that they were abandoned.
On a weird note it also had an impact on the movement of the US strategic gold reserves into Fort Knox, in 1938 the US government was busy shipping gold reserves from all over the East Coast of the United States to Fort Knox for safe-keeping in its new mega-strongbox. The hurricane hit in the middle of some of these shipments, stranding them at train depots, the government was able to resume gold shipments once the storm flooding subsided.
Two final thought to close on though – first I particularly like the last image above because that building is being burned intentionally to clear the way for newer construction. Badly damaged in the hurricane it needed to be removed, and because people rebuild after major storms. Second the hurricane of 1938 came at a time of economic hardship for the United States, the Great Depression, (technically the second surge of that economic downturn from 1937-1939 but lets not quibble), a time when the US economy was weak, people were out of work, and the resources to deal with a crisis like this were less than are present today. Yet the people of the United States overcame the destruction then and I believe we’ll do so again. Hurricane Sandy coming ashore is being greeted by many pundits and commentators as a great fist slam into the economy, and in the short term it well may be. But in the long term, people rebuild, the regroup, and they come out often ahead after such a disaster.