1938 Hurricane
  • Peak Steady Winds - 121 mph
  • Peak Gust - 186 mph at Blue Hill Observatory, MA.
  • Lowest Pressure - 27.94 in (946.2 mb) at Bellport, NY
  • Peak Storm Surge - 17 ft. above normal high tide (RI)
  • Peak Wave Heights - 50 ft. at Gloucester, MA
  • Deaths - 700 (600 in New England)
  • Homeless - 63,000
  • Homes, Buildings Destroyed - 8,900
  • Boats Lost - 3,300
  • Trees Destroyed - 2 Billion (approx.)
  • Cost - $620 million (1938)

Rising Sea Levels by Janin and Mandia Rising Sea Levels by Janin & Mandia


September 21, 1938.

That morning a New York Times editorial entitled "Hurricane" concluded,"Every year an average of three such whirlwinds sweep the tropical North Atlantic between June and November. In 1933, there was an all-time record of twenty. If New York and the rest of the world have been so well informed about the cyclone, it is because of an admirable organized meteorological service"(Allen, 1976).

Except for Charlie Pierce, a junior forecaster in the U.S. Weather Bureau who predicted the storm but was overruled by the chief forecaster, the Weather Bureau experts and the general public never saw it coming. Later that day, the greatest weather disaster ever to hit Long Island and New England struck in the form of a category 3 hurricane. Long Island, New York and New England were changed forever by the Long Island Express.

The immediate effect of this powerful hurricane was to decimate many Long Island communities in terms of human and economic losses, however, the long term effects linger today. The '38 Hurricane created the Shinnecock Inlet and widened Moriches Inlet which, to this day, are changing the landscape of the south shore due to their influence on the natural littoral sand transport. History has shown that these powerful storms are rare but do in fact occur with long-term frequency. Case studies have shown that the next time a storm like the Long Island Express roars through, it might be the greatest disaster in U.S. history. 


I.  Introduction to Hurricanes

Before & After Hurricane

II.  Weather History of the 1938 Hurricane

III.  Damage Caused By Storm

IV.   Human Interest Stories

V.    Geological Impact

VI.  Hurricane/Storm Climatology of Long Island

VII. What Does The Future Hold For Long Island?

VIII. References Cited


Scott A. Mandia, Professor - Physical Sciences
T-202 Smithtown Sciences Bldg.
mandias@sunysuffolk.edu <-- PREFERRED CONTACT METHOD
Last Updated: 5/26/18