Sep 22, 2013
06:24 AM
The Connecticut Story

Hurricane Like That of 1938 Would Be Deadly Serious Today

Hurricane Like That of 1938 Would Be Deadly Serious Today

Katharine Hepburn amid the remains of her home in Old Saybrook after the Hurricane of ’38.

If a hurricane with the fury of the storm that slammed us in 1938 were to hit today, it would be deadly serious event. But the good news:

• We’d know it was coming a lot sooner, and we’d know how big a storm it really was.

• We’d be able to get out of Dodge (or Milford or New Haven), evacuating to higher, farther-away ground, so we likely wouldn’t lose as many lives.

Now the bad news:

• We’d lose at least as much of our power and our property — houses, cars, trees, railroad tracks, backyard swing sets — because there are a lot more trees, a lot more houses on the coast, and it would be far too costly to rebuild them to withstand another Atlantic Express, as the ’38 storm was called.

While Tropical Storm Irene and hybrid “superstorm” Sandy (whatever it was, it wasn’t super compared to 1938) are pretty fresh in our minds, forget any comparison to the ’38 hurricane, which hit 75 years ago Sept. 21. Neither storm truly was even a hurricane, while ’38 was probably a Category 3, with 125 mph winds, which the National Hurricane Center says would cause “devastating damage” today.

And it was an energetic storm in more ways than one.

“It was moving 60 miles per hour. It was pushing wind that was incredible,” said Bill Richards, Milford’s deputy director of emergency management and recovery coordinator.

“Seeing the conditions that we have now from Irene and Sandy, you would lose the coastline” — every house — “There’s no way of getting around it.”

Sandy alone damaged 600 houses in Milford, 200 of them more than 50 percent.

If you’re 80 years old or older, you may be nodding your head, knowing that the recent storms are puddles compared with the might of the one that hit when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gov. Wilbur Cross were in office. (The hurricane didn’t help Cross the way the Blizzard of 1978 burnished Gov. Ella T. Grasso’s legacy. He lost election to a third term in 1938 to Raymond Baldwin.)

See the full story at New Haven Register online..

And see the New Haven Register's hurricane of 1938 photo gallery.

Hurricane Like That of 1938 Would Be Deadly Serious Today

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