Friday, June 4, 2010

Sepia Saturday #26
The Great New England
Hurricane of 1938

From the family archives - photographs of the damage from the Great New England Hurricane of September 1938. Taken by my great grandfather, Howard Augustus Cook, in and around the Village of Southfield, Town of New Marlborough, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, New England! 

From Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia:

"The New England Hurricane of 1938 (or Great New England Hurricane or Long Island Express or simply The Great Hurricane of 1938) was the first major hurricane to strike New England since 1869. The storm formed near the coast of Africa in September of the 1938 Atlantic hurricane season, becoming a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale before making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Long Island on September 21. The hurricane was estimated to have killed between 682 and 800 people, damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at US$306 million ($4.7 billion in 2009 dollars).  In 1951, damaged trees and buildings were still to be seen in the affected areas. To date it remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in New England history."


The eye of the storm followed the Connecticut River north into Massachusetts, where the winds and flooding killed 99 people. In Springfield, the river rose to 6 to 10 feet above flood stage, causing significant damage. Up to six inches of rain fell across western Massachusetts, which combined with over four inches that had fallen a few days earlier produced widespread flooding. Residents of Ware were stranded for days and relied on air-dropped food and medicine. After the flood receded, the town's Main Street was a chasm in which sewer pipes could be seen.

To the east, the surge left Falmouth and New Bedford under eight feet of water. Two-thirds of all the boats in New Bedford harbor sank. The Blue Hills Observatory registered sustained winds of 121 mph and a peak gust of 186 mph.  The New Haven Railroad from New Haven to Providence was particularly hard hit, as countless bridges along the Shore Line were destroyed or flooded, severing rail connections to badly affected cities (such as Westerly) in the process.

Photographs ©2010 Property of Janice Stiles-Boults


  1. Very interesting & educational historical post.

  2. Stark photos of a horrific event in history. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Very informative. I think these "old" hurricanes get dropped from memory by new ones roaring in. I didn't know about this particular storm or its terrible toll on New England.

  4. What an interesting collection of historical photographs. It looks like your great-grandfether was fortunate to have survived such devastation!

  5. I agree with Meri, the old devastations seem to pale in what we see now. Of course more people, larger buildings and more stuff in the air to cause chaos. great post

  6. Interesting post & photos--& good background from Wikipedia. My dad took photos of that storm's aftermath on the Cape. You might be interested to take a look at them here

  7. For those of us who have been lucky enough never to have experienced an hurricane it is difficult to imagine the destructive powers they can bring. Wonderful combination of fine old photos and interesting information. Thanks.

  8. What foresight your ggrandfather Howard had to take photos of the aftermath of the hurricane - and how good of his descendants to save them. We don't live in hurricane country but were camping near Colonial Williamsburg once when one hit the coast. That was close enough for me. Great photos and history.