Hurricane of 1938

Oct. 21, 2015

Seventy seven years ago today the Hurricane of 1938, later called the “Long Island Express” hit long Island.

That morning started as any other, fishing boats put out to sea,children went to school and people went about their everyday lives. All unaware of the approaching storm. Early reports had the storm staying out in the Atlantic so there was little or no concern.

There was no advanced meteorological technology, such as radar, or satellite imagery, to warn of the hurricane’s approach. By the time the U.S.Weather Bureau learned that the Category 3 storm was on a collision course with Long Island on the afternoon of September 21, it was too late for a warning.

The storm developed in the Atlantic Ocean and made a twelve day journey before hitting Long Island on September 21.The winds were clocked at a sustained levels of 121 mph and gusts registered at 186mph. Long Island was devastated by the storm. The shoreline tide was estimated to be at 15 feet. Over 1000homes/bungalows were destroyed on Fire Island, many being washed out to sea. 50 people on Long Island were killed, the majority of them in Westhampton. In all almost 600 people in the Northeast died as a result of this storm, making it the deadliest in our history.

  Middle Island resident Rudy Carrabus remembers standing by the window of the East Middle Island School (now the Administration Building West) and watching the approaching storm. His farm was directly south of the school house, and as the storm grew in ferocity, he observed the outhouse on his farm being launched like a missile into the sky.

Mrs. Josephine Lundy taught at the Ridge schoolhouse and remembered that“I didn't know what was happening at first. All I knew was that all of a sudden I was unable to hold the children's attention. When I realized what was happening, I knew I would be no competition for the falling trees and high winds. I asked the children to put away their work and we all watched what was going on outside. Finally, the parents began to arrive to fetch their sons and daughters. All came except Mr. Hollowell.He was the caretaker at the Smith estate, now a town park known as Longwood. The road was impassable, so I took Beatrice home with me to Patchogue. Once home. I tried to call her parents, but all the telephone lines were down.”

Eastern Long Island experienced the worst ofthe storm. The Dune Road area of Westhampton Beach was destroyed,resulting in 29 deaths. There were 21 other deaths through the rest of the East End of Long Island. It was reported that the bodies of the dead in Westhampton, were laid out on the lawn of the Westhampton Beach Club, which served as a temporary morgue.

The storm continued on and hit New England, and by the time it was over nearly 600 people had lost their lives to this storm.

Middle Island resident Albert Bayles wrote in his diary that ”Electric current went off at 1:41PM and telephone failed. Tidal wave hit eastern shore of L.I….. Hundreds of lives lost and thousands of trees down.
Four days later Albert toured the Longwood area and made it as far as Westhampton, where he photographed the damage done by the storm. Many of the pictures of the storm damage in this thread were taken by Albert as he toured the affected areas.

canal road

Canal Road, Coram. Albert Bayles photo.

main street

Main Street, Yaphank. Albert Bayles photo.

Middle Island
Presbyterian Church, Middle Country Road, Middle Island. Albert Bayles photo.



Phillip's House, Middle Island Yaphank Road. Albert Bayles photo.

Same view 2015

Martha Edwards, Swezeytown (Middle Island) photo by Albert Bayles.

Bridges linking Westhampton's Dune Road to the mainland were completely demolished.

Dune Road, Westhampton Beach.

storm track
Storm Track.

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