Worst Storm

Footnotes to Long Island History

Worst Storm



Thomas R. Bayles



By Thomas R. Bayles


            The hurricane of Sept. 21, 1938 was the worst and most destructive storm to ever hit Long Island, especially the south shore, with giant tidal waves sweeping inland and destroying hundreds of houses and taking the lives of a great many people.

            It had rained the day before with two and a half inches falling, so the ground was wet with the trees in full leaf which made them blow down much worse than if the storm had been in the winter when the trees were bare and the ground frozen.  Most of the damage through the middle of the Island was caused by fallen trees and blocked roads.  From the diary of my brother I quote his record of the storm.

            “Sept. 21, 1938; Hurricane Worst storm in Long Island history.  Tidal waves hit Long Island and New England shores.  Rained two and a half inches yesterday and today.  Thermometer 55 – 73.  Cloudy and rained most of the day.  NE to SE wind began 1:30pm and rose steadily to hurricane force at about 3 p.m and continued until 4 p.m when it ceased for one hour.  SW to NW winds began again about 5 pm, not quite so strong as before and continued through the evening.  Barometer fell steadily from about 30.0 before noon to 27.28 at 4:30 pm and then began rising slowly.  We went to see breakers on Sound shore and then to Coram to see trees blown down by the storm.  Tidal wave hit eastern south shore of Long Island and New England 2 to 4 pm with hundreds of lives lost.  Electric current went off 1:40 pm and telephone failed.”

            “Monday, Sept. 26; We went through Moriches, Eastport and Westhampton looking at the damage done by the storm.  All roads leading to the bay closed and guarded, but we got down to the bar at East Moriches and saw boats, houses and wreckage washed up on the bean fields by storm.  Our electric current came on at 2:15 pm today after being off since last Wednesday when the storm began.  Telephone still not working.”

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