PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Thursday marks the 85th anniversary of the Great Hurricane of 1938, which devastated Southern New England and Long Island with more than 800 deaths.
The storm remains the strongest and deadliest hurricane in New England’s recorded history.
Today’s technology estimates that the hurricane hit Long Island and then Connecticut as a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 121 mph. The strongest gust, however, reached an estimated 186 mph in Milton, Mass. Providence sustained winds of 100 mph.
“People couldn’t get out,” Historian Jim Garman told 12 News. “There were no escape routes then, as there is now. A 12-foot wall of water came up Narragansett Bay, and hit very low-lying land and houses.”
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Garman has spoken to many who survived the storm with some amazing stories and pictures to keep the history of this catastrophic hurricane alive. One story that has stuck with him over the years is of a family that rode out the storm by floating on their roof.
“The roof broke off from the house and floated down Common Fence Point,” Garman recounted. “It first went towards Fall River, then it turned, when the wind turned it went under the Mt. Hope Bridge, and the three members of the family were picked up, the Boudreau family.”
With the lack of media coverage, along with a general disbelief that the store would hit our area, people in the eventual path of the storm had no idea what was coming.
That’s why Garman said it’s so important to continue to educate people on what has happened in the past for better preparedness in the future.
BY THE NUMBERS (Courtesy NOAA):
Damaged: > 15,000