Remembering the Hurricane of 38′

By: Chelsea Priest,

When the Hurricane of 1938 hit there was virtually no warnings. Back then there was no radar, no satellite images, forecasts were made from observations taken on boats at sea. Many who heard of the storm thought it would turn away from the East Coast, unfortunately that storm made it's way right to Southern New England.

“The wind was vicious, it would just pick you right up.”

“The wind was howling.”

“That was really the worst.”

“Shingles were flying around a breaking windows.”

All quotes from seniors who remember the storm like it was yesterday. This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the devastating hurricane. When it made landfall on September 21st over Long Island, the storm was a category three hurricane.

Stanley Szelka remembers, “I was only 18 years old at that time and I'd never seen anything like that. Trees were blowing down, wires were coming down, roofs and everything blowing around, everything was blowing around like crazy.”

Winds gusted to 125MPH in Providence knocking down trees and power lines. Memories from the 1938 hurricane can still be found in downtown Providence. The plaque outside the Federal Reserve on Dorrance Street marks the level the water rose to during the storm.

Stephanie Dunten, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, Taunton explains, “It was way before you had the hurricane barrier and yea there was just a surge of water especially when it's going up Narragansett bay it follows it up right into the city.”

Billions of trees were uprooted, thousands of homes were destroyed and nearly 600 people lost their lives. The cost of the damage in 1938 for all of New England was 620 million dollars, factor in inflation and today the damage would total around 9.8 billion dollars.