The 1938 Long Island Express

The Long Island Express Hurricane (named after the incredible rate of speed it was traveling when it hit land.) Also known as The Great Hurricane of 1938 and The 1938 New England Hurricane.

On September 21, 1938 a hurricane that started forming in Africa, traveled for ten days at speeds up to 75 miles per hour. This massive storm grew to 500 miles wide with the eye of the storm encompassing 50 miles. Reaching a category 5 and sustaining for over 1000 miles as it raced up the east coast.

Unfortunately in 1938 the technology to determine the strength of a hurricane was not available, meteorologist knew it was a “huge” storm but predicted that it would circle around and head back out to sea. They were wrong and the millions of people that were affected by this storm never even knew it was coming.

At 3:30pm this storm hit land as a category 3 hurricane with wind gusts up to 160 miles an hour. It hit Suffolk County in Long Island and continued on a path that went through all of the New England states; Long Island, NY, through the Long Island sound on to Rhode Island, Connecticut Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

When the hurricane hit land, it picked up an entire movie theater, with twenty people inside and tossed it more than two miles in to the ocean.

It continued on its path killing 30 more people and injuring dozens and causing millions of dollars in damages. Destroying homes, buildings, landmarks and even destroyed the Long Island Rail Railroad tracks.

In less than 20 minutes the hurricane hit the next state in its path
Rhode Island, the sea side towns were destroyed hundreds of vacation homes from Cape Cod to New London were washed way by tides that reached an estimated 28 feet in height.

As the hurricane continued on its devastating path thought the Bay, it became restricted because of the Bay’s shape and the hurricane force increased the tides by more than 16 feet. Causing a major flood and the loss of a hundred more lives most of which drowned in their cars in the 14 feet of water that was rushing down the streets of Providence.

The monstrous storm moved onward with all its might to Connecticut, where the hurricane is documented as the states worst natural disaster to date. Claiming a few hundred more lives on its destructive path.

The Connecticut River overflowed and flooded the streets of all the sea side towns. Homes were tossed both in to the ocean and some as far as three miles inland. A 250 ton anchored boat was found a few miles away on the beach.

Homes were flooded and ocean life was found inside them crabs, fish, lobsters and numerous other small sea creatures.

A hundred more lives were claimed as the storm hit the state of Massachusetts with winds gusting up to 188 miles per hour. With flood waters raising as high as 13 feet high and raising havoc to everything in its path. The residents were looking at millions of dollars in damages and went with out power, food and water for three days before help arrived.

New Hampshire was spared a good amount of the hurricanes furry sadly thirteen more people die as the storm quickly passed through the state taking down a dozen bridges and leaving close to a million dollars in damages.

The State University of New York listed the follow information;
* Peak Gust – 186 mph at Blue Hill Observatory, MA
* Peak Storm Surge – 17 ft. above normal high tide (RI)
* Peak Wave Heights – 50 ft. at Gloucester, MA
* Deaths – 700 (600 in New England) that can be accounted for
* Homeless – 63,000
* Cost – $6.2 million

To see the rest of the statistics visit their website at

In addition to the above statistics over 4500 people were injured by the hurricane, the storm destroyed one out of every three buildings or homes in it’s path and even today 70 years later, missing victims are still unaccounted for. So the correct death toll will never be known.

Thankfully, hurricanes can be properly tracked and residents have enough time to either evacuate or board up there homes and wait it out. 70 years ago the people of New England didn’t even know the storm was a hurricane!