Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NYC Hurricane History: The Long Island Express

When I read Aaron Naparstek's article The Big One, I learned, for the first time, about some of the major hurricanes that had hit NYC in previous years. I decided on two storms that I wanted to look at in more depth, since they would have impacted my Brooklyn and NYC ancestors - the 1893 hurricane, and the 1938 "Long Island Express." After finishing up Monday's post on the "Ruinous Gale" of 1893, I started to look into the 1938 storm, and was startled to see it referred to as both the Long Island Express and the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. The Long Island Express was that hurricane? I've heard of that hurricane!

Most people with even a passing interest in the history of New England have heard of the 1938 hurricane that decimated the coast and killed hundreds, but it had never even occurred to me to wonder what effect it had had on New York. Hurricanes do not usually manage to hit New England without impacting NYC and Long Island, of course, but I never made the connection, not even when I spent two days thinking about New York being hit by a hurricane in 1938.

New York papers from the day after the Long Island Express hit were substantially more alarming than from the day after the 1893 storm. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle headline proclaimed "19 Die, 39 Missing in L.I. Hurricane."

22 September 1938
The Eagle devoted at least 5 pages primarily to the effects of the storm. Technology had advanced considerably since the hurricane that had hit 45 years earlier, and so you don't have to rely on my meager writing skills to give you an idea of what it was like. Instead, we have these remarkable videos to show us. (h/t to Bowery Boogie)

These focus mostly on New England, but give you a good idea of what the storm held for New York, particularly for the eastern end of Long Island, where it's power was most devastatingly felt.

Perhaps the most haunting part of the Eagle's coverage is the list of the dead, the missing, and the injured. Even a brief reading of the articles, though, shows that the list, and the count, far understate the actual damage. For example, left off the list are the 25 children who were attending a party at the home of Mrs. Norvin Greene in Westhampton Beach, none of whom had been seen since the storm. (The Greenes and their guests were later discovered to have survived.) (Murray, Around Westhampton.) 

Below is the list of dead and missing:

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 22 September 1938

1 comment:

Kay Strickland said...

What a timely piece! Thank you, particularly for these fascinating videos. Kay