Aftermath of 1938 hurricane
Aftermath of 1938 hurricane Creative Common

As Hurricane Irene moves northwestward from the heart of the Caribbean onto the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., New York City is expecting to be hit with heavy rains and perhaps major flooding by this weekend.

Hurricanes of any significant impact occur far less frequently in the Northeastern U.S. than they do in the southeast and Gulf of Mexico – but they do happen.

Perhaps the deadliest storm in the Northeast occurred in 1938, when a Category 3 tempest made landfall on Long Island in late September of that year.

Overall, the storm is blamed for up to 800 deaths (primarily in New England), the destruction of almost 60,000 homes and estimated property damage of almost $5-billion (in 2011 terms).

Moving up the east coast – at one point with winds of up to 100 miles per hour – it skirted the New Jersey coastline and New York City by noon on September 21. By 2:30, the hurricane smashed into Long Island -- with winds estimated at up to 125 miles per hour -- making landfall in Bayport. An hour later, it made a second landfall in Connecticut, near New Haven.

Most of the damage and loss of life occurred in New England (particularly Rhode Island); however Long Island and New York City were not completely spared.

Manhattan reported wind gusts of up to 75 mph, which prompted the East River to flow three blocks inland. Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County were hammered with wind gusts of more than 100 miles per hour.
The Empire State Building supposedly ‘swayed’ and power was out all across the city,

Eastern Long Island got the worst of it. Twenty nine people were swept away in Westhampton Beach (including 20 cinemagoers who were carried three miles into the sea and drowned).

Another 21 people died in other parts of Long Island.

The storm surge was so massive that it temporality made Montauk (on the extreme eastern edge of Long island) into an island itself.