The Killer Hurricane That Surprised the Northeast, 75 Years Ago

The Killer Hurricane That Surprised the Northeast, 75 Years Ago

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As dawn broke over the New England coast on September 21, 1938, the rising sun burned away the soft morning fog and left behind wispy clouds and hopes for one final beach day in summer’s fleeting hours. In the morning newspapers, only the most diligent of readers would have discovered, buried deep beneath a blizzard of ink about the rising drums of war in Europe and the continuing struggles of the Great Depression, the good news that the hurricane that had threatened Florida the day before had turned sharply north. A New York Times editorial that morning praised the technological sophistication of the U.S. Weather Bureau, which, decades before satellite imagery and Doppler radar, relied on observations from ships at sea, in tracking the storm. “If New York and the rest of the world have been so well informed about the cyclone, it is because of an admirably organized meteorological service,” reported the Times.

While unsuspecting Northeasterners read their morning newspapers, the unnamed hurricane still lurked 100 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. By 10 a.m., the Weather Bureau’s Washington, D.C. station had downgraded the hurricane to a tropical storm, and nearly all of its forecasters expected the cyclone to follow the well-worn storm track and curve harmlessly away from the densely populated Northeast.

It didn’t.

Instead, the hurricane roared like an express train paralleling the East Coast. Piggybacking on the jet stream, the hurricane accelerated to nearly 70 miles per hour, twice the normal velocity for a storm of its size, which meant it had little time to weaken over the colder waters of the northern Atlantic. Moving at unprecedented speed, the hurricane raced toward Long Island and New England. By noontime, the skies that held such promise just hours earlier darkened, the winds howled and the sea roiled.

Inside the Weather Bureau in the national capital, junior meteorologist Charlie Pierce continued to calculate data and correctly told his colleagues at a noontime meeting that the hurricane would rip right through New England. The veteran forecasters, who had never seen a major hurricane strike the region, remained skeptical, and the bureau’s 2 p.m. forecast still didn’t mention a hurricane. By the time forecasters realized the true path of the freak storm, the eye of the Category 3 hurricane was already glancing down at land for the first time, crossing at Bayport, New York.

With no time to prepare or evacuate, the millions in the hurricane’s path had no option but to ride out the storm. Winds quickly felled phone and electricity lines, which cut off communication to the impacted region. The storm sliced through the center of Long Island before slamming into the Connecticut shoreline just east of New Haven around 3:30 p.m.

The incredible speed of the cyclone itself magnified the intensity of the storm’s wind east of the eye. Atop the Blue Hill Observatory outside of Boston, sustained winds were clocked at 121 miles per hour with one gust at 183 miles per hour. Roaring winds snapped the stately white steeples of New England’s churches like matchsticks and picked orchards clean of ripened apples before finally plucking the trees themselves out of the ground.

With tides already higher than normal due to a full moon and the impending autumnal equinox, the fast-moving hurricane bulldozed a wall of water between 20 and 30 feet high into the coastlines of Long Island and southeastern New England. Waves smacked against seawalls and sent jets of ocean spray airborne like erupting geysers. The storm surge smashed houses to piles of kindling. It killed dozens in Westerly, Rhode Island, and drove Narragansett Bay straight into the streets of downtown Providence. Floodwaters in New London, Connecticut, sparked a short circuit that was quickly whipped into a 10-hour inferno that incinerated the waterfront.

The hurricane left behind a swath of destruction hundreds of miles inland as its eye traveled up the Connecticut River valley into Massachusetts and Vermont. The storm dumped more than a foot of rain in some towns, and already swollen rivers transformed into raging rapids that drowned inland cities, such as Hartford. By 11 p.m., barely 12 hours after it had brushed North Carolina, the speeding storm crossed into Canada.

When daylight broke the next morning, the extent of the damage was realized. The hurricane had buckled boardwalks and knotted railroad tracks. Steamships and bathing pavilions were stranded in the middle of roads. Like an incoming tide obliterating children’s sand castles, the sea had swallowed beachfront houses whole and left no remnants. Only 26 of the 179 houses on the dunes of Long Island’s Westhampton Beach remained, and authorities stacked the bodies of victims on the ballroom floor of the Westhampton Country Club. The “Long Island Express” even reshaped the map of the coastline by carving new inlets through barrier islands. The Hurricane of 1938 killed upwards of 700 people, left thousands homeless and ranked at the time as the costliest disaster in American history.

1938 New England hurricane

The 1938 New England Hurricane (also referred to as the Great New England Hurricane and the Long Island Express Hurricane) [1] [2] was one of the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclones to strike Long Island, New York, and New England. The storm formed near the coast of Africa on September 9, becoming a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, before making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane [3] on Long Island on September 21. It is estimated that the hurricane killed 682 people, [4] damaged or destroyed more than 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at $306 million ($4.7 billion in 2017). [5] Damaged trees and buildings were still seen in the affected areas as late as 1951. [6] It remains the most powerful and deadliest hurricane in recorded New England history, perhaps eclipsed in landfall intensity only by the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635. [7]

At the time, roughly half of the 1938 New England hurricane's existence went unnoticed. The Atlantic hurricane reanalysis in 2012 concluded that the storm developed into a tropical depression on September 9 off the coast of West Africa, but the United States Weather Bureau was unaware that a tropical cyclone existed until September 16 by then, it was already a well-developed hurricane and had tracked westward toward the Sargasso Sea. It reached hurricane strength on September 15 and continued to strengthen to a peak intensity of 160 mph (260 km/h) near The Bahamas four days later, making it a Category 5-equivalent hurricane. [note 1] The storm was propelled northward, rapidly paralleling the East Coast before making landfalls on Long Island and Connecticut as a Category 3-equivalent hurricane on September 21. After moving inland, it transitioned into an extratropical cyclone and dissipated over Ontario on September 23.

SouthCoast survivors recall aftermath of Hurricane of 1938

The Hurricane of 1938 raced up the eastern seaboard and without warning slammed into New England 75 years ago, leaving a swath of destruction and death in its wake.

The Hurricane of 1938 raced up the eastern seaboard and without warning slammed into New England 75 years ago, leaving a swath of destruction and death in its wake.

Stephanie Dunten, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's office in Taunton, said the loss of life, the injuries and the property damage were immense from the quick-moving, Category 3 hurricane that hit Long Island and the six New England states more or less by surprise Sept. 21, 1938, before extending its destruction into Canada.

More than 560 people were killed more than 1,700 others were injured 8,900 homes were destroyed and 15,000 were damaged 2,600 boats were destroyed and more than 3,000 were damaged and more than two billion trees were destroyed, she said.

The damage estimate, in 1939 dollars, was more than $15 million, she said. Indexed for inflation in 1989, the devastation was measured at $3.5 billion.

In Greater New Bedford, 45 people were killed, including Mabel Small, the wife of Palmer Island Lighthouse keeper Capt. Arthur A. Small, who died trying to save her husband scores more were reported missing and property damage was more than $2 million in 1938 dollars.

"We thought it was the end of the world," said Therese M. Reale, 86, of New Bedford, who remembers seeing the nuns' black skirts blowing in the wind as an 11-year-old getting out of classes for the day at Holy Name School in New Bedford. "We had never seen a hurricane at the time. To this day, I'm afraid of the wind.

"I can actually close my eyes and see that scene," she said of the fierce winds blowing the nuns' skirts. "Thank God He has let me keep my memories."

She said she remembers holding on to picket fences for support as she walked with her sister and hearing the sounds of trees snapping like match sticks and seeing shingles and even slate from roofs flying through the air.

Several SouthCoast residents, interviewed for this story about the hurricane's 75th anniversary, said the region was dealt a devastating blow from the storm.

Schools was canceled for days, many factories and businesses were closed and phones and radios were out because there was no electricity.

"I walked around and couldn't believe the devastation around the (Clasky) Common," Reale said. "We just believed that whatever it was, that God sent it," she said.

"It's an interesting part of history, but I would not want to go through it again," she said.

And unlike any severe weather today, New England and southeastern Massachusetts never received a warning about the approaching hurricane, which caught them completely off-guard.

"There wasn't any warning ahead of the storm," Dunten said. "The technology wasn't there. There wasn't radar, satellite, buoys. They were just used to hurricanes turning out to the Atlantic."

The hurricane was forecast to hit Florida, but it veered north and hugged the eastern coastline, according to Dunten. Even then, though, meteorologists thought it would go out to sea.

However, it got caught in the upper level jet stream and accelerated on a frantic pace toward New England with estimated speeds of 51 to 60 mph, she said. On average, hurricanes off New England waters travel at a speed of 33 mph.

"It moved from Cape Hatteras to Providence, R.I., in eight hours," she said.

The first warning about the approaching storm was issued at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21, 1938 — the day of the hurricane — for the area from Atlantic City, N.J., to Block Island.

"That was the first notice of a storm," Dunten said. "They knew it was offshore. They didn't think it would head this way."

At 12:30 p.m., the warning changed to "a white gale" with 55 to 75 mph winds for the area from Sandy Hook, N.J., to Cape Cod, she said.

The hurricane hit an unprepared southern New England shortly after 3 p.m., first making landfall on Long Island and then on the Connecticut River Valley between 1 and 3 p.m., she said.

The hurricane's speed also limited its duration as it left the region shortly after midnight. "We like to say, 'it came for lunch and left for dinner,'" Dunten said.

The Blue Hills Meteorological Observatory in Milton recorded sustained winds of 121 mph from the hurricane with peak gusts of 186 mph, she said. The wind speed in Fall River, the closest location to New Bedford with a recorded wind speed, was 105 mph.

Greater New Bedford was pelted with 2 to 4 inches of wind-driven rain, but the greatest damage came from the wind and the storm surge, according to Dunten.

The storm surge from New London, Conn., to Cape Cod was 18 to 25 feet, and portions of New Bedford and Falmouth were submerged under 8 feet of water, she said.

It was the first time many people in southeastern Massachusetts had seen a hurricane.

"We didn't think anything of it because we didn't know what a hurricane was," said Reale's husband, Emile J. Reale, now 90, recalling his memories as a teenager walking home from the former New Bedford Vocational High School in the city's West End.

"We had no knowledge of what was coming," said Betty J. Lewis DeMoranville, 87, of Fairhaven, who was 12 at the time.

The hurricane fell on Jeanne Carrier's 11th birthday. Now 85 (she turns 86 on Saturday), she remembers walking the two miles from the two-room Faunce Corner School on Old Fall River Road, Dartmouth, to her parents' home on High Hill Road, where she still resides.

"It was just a wind storm. No one knew what a hurricane was," she said. "It was all new to us."

Her sister, Aileen Carrier, who was 16 at the time, ruptured her appendix and doctors operated on her at Acushnet Hospital under candlelight, she said.

In a letter to The Standard-Times and a later interview, Ray Covill, 82, remembered his mother's heroic actions in transporting 10 of his classmates at the Washington Street School in Fairhaven, now Northeast Maritime Institute, to their homes after school let out.

Blenda Covill arrived to drive her son home and left with her two-door, 1936 Ford Couple stuffed with three children in front and eight in the back, Ray said. Blenda had to make a detour to avoid a fallen tree and drove over a lawn and down a sidewalk to get through the debris and get the children home.

"When we got in the car it was fascinating to watch the wind and the rain," Ray said.

"Each time she approached some child's home, mom leaned on the horn, and some anxious mom or dad would come running out to retrieve their child," Ray said.

"Eventually all of us got to our homes safely."

A classmate, Ruth Porter, who later became Covill's wife, left the school minutes earlier, lunch pail in hand, running down the street to her home on Summer Street in Fairhaven.

"I didn't know what was happening other than it was raining," she said.

An only child, the house was empty when she arrived home, she said.

Her father, Herbert Porter, a volunteer firefighter in Fairhaven, was called into work and her mother, Helen Porter, who later became principal of the East Fairhaven School and the system's elementary coordinator, was stranded at work in Rochester. A neighbor, though, agreed to come over and baby-sit.

Both Covills remember going outside sometime before nighttime and playing as the eye of the hurricane apparently passed over the region, they said. The winds had dropped to 20 mph, the rain had stopped, the sun was out, the sky had a yellowish tint and the air smelled of sulfur.

"It was dead calm and you could smell the sulfur," she said.

Ray and Ruth Covill, who now live in Mattapoisett, have been married 58 years and have two sons and a daughter, three grandsons and a granddaughter.

Angela Gracia, 93, of New Bedford has memories as an 18-year-old standing on Bolton Road in Dartmouth and seeing the water coming up Rogers Street, bringing two large gas tanks with it.

The youngest of five children, she said her family used oil lamps for light for about a week to read and eat while the electricity was out.

She said she remembers National Guard troops on Brock Avenue in New Bedford preventing people from going down to the water because of all the debris and a boat that washed ashore off Cove Road, where the Cove Discount Store was formerly located.


On September 6, ships reported a tropical depression developing just off the west coast of Africa near Dakar, Senegal. On the next day, a ship reported winds of 60 mph (97 km/h), or tropical storm status on this basis, the Atlantic hurricane reanalysis project estimated that the system attained tropical storm status late on September 6. However, lack of observations for several days prevented the system from being classified in real time as it moved generally westward across the Atlantic Ocean. [1] On September 10, the S.S. Commack first observed the storm about 900 mi (1,450 km) to the east of Guadeloupe, which at the time was the most easterly report of a tropical cyclone ever received through ship's radio. Later that day, two other ships confirmed the intensity of the storm, [2] and the Hurricane Research Division estimated it strengthened into a hurricane at 18:00 UTC on September 10. [1]

As the storm neared the Lesser Antilles, it continued to intensify. [3] Between 17:30 and 18:30 UTC on September 12, the hurricane's eye moved over Guadeloupe with a barometric pressure of 937 mbar (27.7 inHg), suggesting maximum sustained winds of 140 mph (230 km/h), or Category 4 intensity on the Saffir–Simpson scale. [1] Continuing to the west-northwest, the hurricane passed about 10 mi (16 km) south of Saint Croix before approaching Puerto Rico. On September 13, the 15 mi (24 km) eye crossed Puerto Rico in eight hours from the southeast to the northwest, moving ashore near Guayama and exiting between Aguadilla and Isabela. [4] A ship near the southern coast reported a pressure of 931 mbar (27.5 inHg), and the cup anemometer at San Juan reported sustained winds of 160 mph (257 km/h) before failing. [1] As the wind station was 30 mi (48 km) north of the storm's center, winds near the landfall point were unofficially estimated as high as 200 mph (320 km/h). [2] On this basis, the hurricane is believed to have made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, although there was uncertainty in the peak intensity, due to the large size and slow movement of the storm. [1]

After emerging from Puerto Rico, the hurricane had weakened to winds of about 140 mph (230 km/h), based on a pressure reading of 941 mbar (27.8 inHg) at Isabela. The storm brushed the northern coast of Hispaniola while moving west-northwestward, gradually restrengthening. On September 15, it passed within 35 mi (56 km) of Grand Turk, by which time the winds increased to 155 mph (249 km/h). The storm continued through the Bahamas as a strong Category 4 hurricane, passing near Nassau at 10:00 UTC on September 16. [1] Initially, Richard Gray of the U.S. Weather Bureau was optimistic that the storm would spare South Florida. [5] However, at 00:00 UTC on September 17, the large hurricane made landfall in southeastern Florida near West Palm Beach, with estimated winds of 145 mph (233 km/h). This was based on a pressure reading of 929 mbar (27.4 inHg) in the city, [1] which at the time was the lowest pressure reading in the mainland United States this broke the previous record of 935 mbar (27.6 inHg) set during the 1926 Miami hurricane. Peak gusts were estimated near 160 mph (260 km/h) at Canal Point. [2]

The hurricane quickly weakened as it progressed inland and moved over Lake Okeechobee, although its large size enabled it to maintain hurricane status for several more days. Late on September 17, the hurricane recurved to the northeast and passed near Jacksonville early the next day with winds of 75 mph (121 km/h). At 08:00 UTC on September 18, the storm again reached open waters. Later that day, the hurricane restrengthened slightly over open waters, making a second United States landfall near Edisto Island, South Carolina, at 19:00 UTC with winds of 85 mph (137 km/h). Accelerating northeastward, the system quickly weakened into a tropical storm over North Carolina. On September 19, the storm transitioned into an extratropical cyclone, although it restrengthened slightly to hurricane strengthen, due to baroclinic forcing. The cyclone turned to the north-northwest, moving quickly through the eastern United States. [1] On September 21, the former hurricane dissipated over Ontario, [1] having merged with another disturbance. [2]

Leeward Islands Edit

Storm deaths by region
Region Deaths Locale Deaths
and Bahamas
1,601 [2] [6] Martinique 3 [6]
Guadeloupe 1,200 [6]
Montserrat 42 [7]
Dominica 1 [6]
Saint Kitts and Nevis 22 [6]
Puerto Rico 312 [6]
Turks and Caicos Islands 18 [6]
Bahamas 3 [2]
United States 2,511+ [8] Florida 2,500+
Maryland 1
New Jersey 3
Pennsylvania 7
Total 4,112+

The hurricane moved directly over the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, strengthening as it did so. On the island of Dominica, winds were clocked at 24 mph (39 km/h) there were no reports of damage, [2] though one fatality occurred. [6] In Martinique, further south of the storm's path, there were three fatalities. Guadeloupe received a direct hit from the storm, apparently with little warning the death toll there was 1,200, [9] and damage reports relayed through Paris indicated "great destruction" on the island. [2] About three-fourths of the island's residents were left homeless. In the community of Saint-François, the only structure to remain standing was the police station, which was built with reinforced concrete. To the east of the town, the merchant ship Albatros sank it had been carrying 80 casks of rum. The crew and the five men attempting to save the ship drowned. [6] Approximately 85%–95% of banana crops were destroyed, 70%–80% of tree crops suffered severe damage, and 40% of the sugar cane crop was ruined. The people struggled to survive both in the short and longer term after the storm. [10]

Montserrat, just north of the storm's center, was warned in advance of the storm but still suffered £150,000 (1928 UKP) in damages and 42 deaths Plymouth and Salem were devastated, and crop losses caused near-starvation conditions before relief could arrive. [7] All commercial and government buildings on the island were destroyed, as were more than 600 homes. Saint Kitts and Nevis also suffered heavily. On the island of St. Kitts, a number of homes built on wooden foundations were demolished. Nine deaths were reported, six of which occurred in a schoolhouse collapse. Thirteen people were killed on the island of Nevis. [6]

The storm destroyed hundreds of home on Antigua, including a doctor's home and a "poor house". Government offices, hospitals, and school were also damaged. On Saint Croix, nearly all of the island's 11,000 residents suffered some degree of loss. A total of 143 buildings were destroyed, including a sugar mill. The storm resulted in nine deaths on the island. Throughout the Virgin Islands, as many as 700,000 people were rendered homeless. [6]

Puerto Rico Edit

While the storm was passing near Dominica, the San Juan, Puerto Rico Weather Bureau warned about the threat of the hurricane which would strike the island within a day or two. The advisory was sent via telegraph to 75 police districts and was broadcast from the naval radio station every two hours [11] this was the first hurricane warning broadcast by radio. [4] Warnings were also posted for 12 ports along the southern coast, causing ships to avoid the island or remain at port. Effective preparation is credited for the relatively low death toll of 312, and not a single ship was lost at sea in the vicinity of Puerto Rico. By comparison, the weaker 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane killed approximately 3,000 people. [11]

Strongest U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones
Rank Name Season Wind speed
mph km/h
1 "Labor Day" 1935 185 295
2 Karen 1962 175 280
Camille 1969
Yutu 2018
5 Andrew 1992 165 270
6 "Okeechobee" 1928 160 260
Michael 2018
8 Maria 2017 155 250
"Last Island" 1856 150 240
"Indianola" 1886
"Florida Keys" 1919
"Freeport" 1932
Charley 2004
Laura 2020
Source: Hurricane Research Division [12]
Strength refers to maximum sustained wind speed upon striking land.

According to the San Juan National Weather Service office, the storm was "up to this time the greatest and more [sic] intense and destructive hurricane of record in Puerto Rico." [4] Along the storm path, the eye passed over Guayama, Cayey, and Aibonito, resulting in a period of calm lasting 20 minutes. [11] The island of Puerto Rico received the worst of the storm's winds when the hurricane moved directly across the island at Category 5 strength. [11] The hurricane was extremely large as it crossed Puerto Rico. Hurricane-force winds were measured in Guayama for 18 hours, where a low pressure of 931 mbar (27.5 inHg) was reported. Since the storm is estimated to have been moving at 13 mph (21 km/h), the diameter of the storm's hurricane winds was estimated very roughly to be 234 mi (377 km). [11]

The rainfall recorded on September 13–14, 1928, remains the record for the maximum rainfall associated with a hurricane in Puerto Rico within a period of forty-eight hours. In those regions where precipitation is more common place, as in Adjuntas in the Cordillera Central and in the Sierra de Luquillo, the rain was over 25 inches (640 mm), with 29.60 in (752 mm) recorded in Adjuntas. The anemometer located in Puerta de Tierra lost one of its cups at 11:44 am on September 13, just when it had registered a maximum speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) —a speed that was sustained for five consecutive minutes. Previously the same instrument had measured 160 mph (260 km/h) for one minute. Because these measurements were taken 30 mi (48 km) from San Felipe's eye, at the time, it seemed possible that some estimates of 200 mi (320 km) per hour near the center of the storm were not overdrawn. [13]

There was general destruction through the island, with the towns where the eye passed being swept away. [13] Property damage on the island from winds and rain was catastrophic. The northeast portion of the island received winds in excess of Category 3 strength, with hurricane-force winds lasting as long as 18 hours. Official reports stated "several hundred thousand" people were left homeless, and property damages were estimated at $50 million. [11] [14]

On the island there was no building that was not affected. Some sugar mills ("Centrales") that had cost millions of dollars to build were reduced to rubble. Reports say that 24,728 homes were destroyed and 192,444 were partially destroyed. [13] Most of the sugarcane fields were flooded, ruining the year's crops. Half of the coffee plants and half of the shade trees that covered these were destroyed almost all of the coffee harvest was lost. The coffee industry would take years to recover since coffee needs shade trees to grow. The tobacco farms also had great losses. After this hurricane, Puerto Rico never regained its position as a major coffee exporter. [15]

Communications were disrupted by fallen trees, landslides, and damaged bridges. Some 770 school buildings were destroyed or damaged. According to some estimates of the day, excluding personal losses, the damages reached $85.312 million and more than 500,000 people were left homeless. Until Hurricane Maria 89 years later, San Felipe II was officially classified as Puerto Rico's biggest, worst, and most devastating hurricane to ever have hit the island. [13]

Greater Antilles and Bahamas Edit

Deadliest Atlantic hurricanes
Rank Hurricane Season Fatalities
1 "Great Hurricane" 1780 22,000–27,501
2 Mitch 1998 11,374+
3 Fifi 1974 8,210–10,000
4 "Galveston" 1900 8,000–12,000
5 Flora 1963 7,193
6 "Pointe-à-Pitre" 1776 6,000+
7 "Okeechobee" 1928 4,112+
8 "Newfoundland" 1775 4,000–4,163
9 "Monterrey" 1909 4,000
10 "Dominican Republic" 1930 2,000–8,000
See also: List of deadliest Atlantic hurricanes

After affecting Puerto Rico, the hurricane passed just north of the Dominican Republic, causing very little damage. This was due to the small core and weaker winds to the south of the center. Advance warning reduced the number of ships traversing the region. [2]

While the hurricane was passing nearby, Grand Turk reported winds of 120 mph (193 km/h). According to a ship report in the region, "The force of the wind . could only be judged by the noise made by the storm, which reminded me of the New York subway going full speed passing switches." Winds approached 120 mph (193 km/h) at Nassau before the anemometer failed. [1] In addition to the winds, the storm dropped heavy rainfall in the region, totaling 9 in (230 mm) in Nassau. [2] As in Puerto Rico, authorities in the Bahamas had ample warning of the hurricane's approach, and preparations minimized the loss of life in the islands. Two boats were wrecked as they washed ashore in Grand Turk, although the crews were saved. A sloop traversing from Ambergris Caye to Grand Turk was lost, killing all 18 people on board. [2] The storm caused heavy damage throughout the Bahamas, mostly to property and crops. [1]

In Nassau, some buildings which had been recently repaired after the 1926 Nassau hurricane were destroyed during this storm. A 10-year-old girl drowned after falling into an open trench filled with water. At the Fort Montague Hotel, the windows, doors, and furniture were badly damaged. Similar damage was reported at the Royal Victoria Hotel, while the British Colonial Hotel was largely spared. However, the gardens of the three hotels were "damaged almost beyond recognition". [6]

On Bimini, sustained winds of 140 mph (230 km/h) were observed, causing major damage to buildings. Ninety-five houses and some other buildings, including a few churches and government buildings, were damaged or destroyed on Eleuthera. Minor damage was reported on Rum Cay. Most of the food crops were destroyed. On San Salvador Island, four buildings were demolished, including two churches, while several other structures suffered minor damage. Food crops were nearly wiped out. [6]

Florida Edit

While the hurricane was moving through the Bahamas, the Weather Bureau issued storm warnings from Miami to Titusville, later upgrading to a hurricane warning from Miami to Daytona Beach. The agency advised residents to take precautions for the hurricane, citing the potential for strong winds and waves. Hurricane warnings were also posted for the west coast from Punta Rassa to Apalachicola, and after the storm recurved, hurricane warnings were extended along the east coast to Jacksonville. [2] Because of well-issued hurricane warnings, residents were prepared for the storm, and only 26 deaths were recorded in the coastal Palm Beach area. [2]

Strong winds struck southern Florida as the hurricane moved ashore, with three unofficial reports of 100 mph (161 km/h). [2] In Miami to the south of the center, winds reached 78 mph (126 km/h), [1] and farther south, Key West reported winds of 39 mph (63 km/h). The eye at landfall was 25 mi (40 km) wide, and after moving inland crossed Lake Okeechobee, where a calm was reported for 30 minutes. Winds at Canal Point, adjacent to the lake, were estimated as high as 160 mph (257 km/h) the anemometer blew away after reporting sustained winds of 75 mph (121 km/h). The pressure at Canal Point dropped to 942 mbar (27.82 inHg). The lowest pressure north of Lake Okeechobee was 966 mbar (28.54 inHg) in Bartow, and along the west coast, winds reached 31 mph (50 km/h) in Tampa. [2]

The hurricane left thousands of people homeless in Florida property damage was estimated at $25 million ($377 million). It is estimated if a similar storm were to strike as of the year 2003, it would cause $18.7 billion in damages. The cyclone remains one of three Atlantic hurricanes to strike the southern mainland of Florida with a central pressure below 940 mbar (27.76 inHg), the others being the 1926 Miami hurricane and Hurricane Andrew of 1992. [16]

In addition to the human fatalities, 1,278 livestock and 47,389 poultry were killed, respectively. [17] Agriculture was significantly affected, with the storm destroying what may have been the largest "citrus crop in the history of the industry". Approximately 6% of oranges and 18% of grapefruit were ruined, respectively. Harvesting the remaining crops was delayed until mid-October due to inundated groves. [6] Communications also suffered severely. Throughout the state, 32,000 households were left without telephone service and 400 poles were broken and about 2,500 others leaning. [6] Governor of Florida John W. Martin estimated that 15,000 families were left homeless in Palm Beach County alone. Additionally, about 11,500 families would need to be "re-established". [18]

Coastal South Florida Edit

In Miami, damage was minimal, limited to broken windows and awnings. In Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, windows and roofs were damaged, although to a fairly minor extent. [2] Numerous power lines and telephone wires were downed in the latter city. [19] Northward, from Pompano Beach to Jupiter, buildings suffered serious damage from the heavy winds and 10 ft (3 m) storm surge. [2] Nearly all small frame houses were destroyed in Deerfield Beach, while several citizens estimated that at least 50% of homes were demolished. The town's post office, depot, and an entire business block were also destroyed. An eight-year-old boy drowned in a ditch near where his family sought refuge. In Boca Raton, two garages and several houses were destroyed. At the Cloister Inn, windows were shattered and the roof was damaged across the street, 32 freight cars belonging to a train along the Florida East Coast Railway were tossed by the wind into a nearby ditch. A short distance to the north, a warehouse was flattened. A building occupied by a restaurant and a store was flattened. In Delray Beach, four churches suffered severe damage and the Alta Repp and Seacrest hotels both lost a portion of their roof. The police reported three deaths within the city. In Delray Beach and Lantana, all houses and the railroad station were badly damaged. In Boynton Beach, about 75% of businesses suffered complete destruction. Fifteen people were injured by a roof collapse while taking refuge in the auditorium of a high school. [20]

In Lake Worth, approximately 50% of homes were damaged or destroyed, while 75% of buildings in the business district suffered damage. [20] Damage along the coast was most severe in Palm Beach. Total coastal damages were estimated as "several million" dollars. [2] In West Palm Beach, the storm destroyed 1,711 homes and damaged 6,369 others, and demolished 268 businesses and impacted 490 other businesses the city suffered the worst damage, totaling just under $13.8 million. [18] Likewise, there was also severe wind damage in Palm Beach. A few buildings constructed by Henry Flagler, such as The Breakers, the Royal Poinciana Hotel, and Whitehall, were damaged. Mar-a-Lago suffered few effects other than uprooted trees and the destruction of a large Roman-style window, according to Marjorie Merriweather Post. Rodman Wanamaker's house, known as "La Guerida" and later the "Winter White House" when used by President John F. Kennedy, suffered heavy damage during the storm. [18] The Alba, Billows, New Palm Beach, and Royal Daneli hotels all suffered water damage, while the Alba Hotel was also deroofed. Nearby, the Rainbow Pier had only structural damage to its railings, though the pier office was blown away. [21] Approximately 600 structures, including 10 hotels, were damaged in Palm Beach. Damage totaled over $2 million. [18]

The strongest winds in the eyewall affected northern Palm Beach County, particularly the vicinity of Jupiter as the eye made landfall farther south. [22] At the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, the mortar was reportedly "squeezed . like toothpaste" from between the bricks during the storm, swaying the tower 17 in (430 mm) off the base. [23] The lighthouse keeper, Captain Seabrook, and his son, Franklin, worked to keep the light on during the storm after the electricity went out. After the generator failed to work, they hand-cranked the light's mantle. [24] The building formerly used as a Weather Bureau Office was destroyed. Nearby, six people died after a house was demolished. Six other fatalities occurred west of Jupiter after a school where people sought shelter collapsed. [6]

Lake Okeechobee and Everglades Edit

Inland, the hurricane wreaked much more widespread destruction along the more heavily populated coast of Lake Okeechobee. Residents had been warned to evacuate the low ground earlier in the day, but after the hurricane did not arrive on schedule, many thought it had missed and returned to their homes. In the weeks prior to the storm, heavy rainfall had caused the lake to rise 3 ft (0.91 m) between August 10 and September 10 and filled nearby canals and ditches. Precipitation from the hurricane itself caused Lake Okeechobee to rise further. [23] When the worst of the storm crossed the lake, the south-blowing wind caused a storm surge to overflow the small dike that had been built at the south end of the lake. The resulting flood covered an area of hundreds of square miles with water that in some places was more than 20 ft (6 m) deep. Houses were floated off their foundations and dashed to pieces against any obstacles encountered. [25] Most survivors and bodies were washed out into the Everglades, where many of the bodies were never found. [26] Agricultural losses in the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee were also significant, with virtually all crops destroyed and over 150 tractors suffering damage. [6]

As the rear eyewall passed over the area, the flood reversed itself, breaking the dikes along the northern coast of the lake and causing similar but smaller flooding. [26] Route 98, then known as Conner's Highway, was closed until January, when the bridge across the Onosohatchee River at Taylor Creek was replaced after the original bridge was carried about 150 ft (46 m) upstream during the storm. [27] In Okeechobee County, homes along the lake were destroyed by the storm surge, while dwellings within the city of Okeechobee were severely damaged or demolished by winds of at least 90 mph (140 km/h). However, brick and concrete dwellings suffered little damage. A number of three-story business buildings collapsed during the storm. [28] Almost all roads were left impassable, while communications were nearly wiped out. [29] Overall, 27 deaths occurred in Okeechobee County. Along the southwestern shore of Lake Okeechobee, the towns of Clewiston and Moore Haven were both flooded, but most houses suffered more damage due to strong winds. [28]

On Kreamer Island, many residents received information about the storm when it was too late to evacuate. In some houses, 20–30 people sought shelter inside and later stood on tables and chairs to remain above the water. Most of the houses were swept away into rows of pine trees and others more than half a mile (0.8 km) away. Despite this, only one person drowned on the island. Residents of Torry Island did not have enough time to prepare for the storm. They tried to evacuate, but with the causeway already inundated, twenty-three people sought refuge in a packinghouse. Floodwaters entered the building, forcing the occupants into the rafters. The building was eventually pushed into a nearby canal. Ten people drowned, but thirteen others survived by clinging to a barge or tree tops, while one woman tied herself to a telegraph pole. Others who survived were swept far away from the original sites of the building and the barge. A teenage boy was carried from the packinghouse to the Everglades Experiment Station in Belle Glade – a distance of about 8 mi (13 km). [23] On Ritta Island, a number of persons who had successfully climbed to the roof of their houses to escape floodwaters were struck by trees or received fatal bites from water moccasins. [30]

In South Bay, nearly all houses were destroyed and several buildings were unroofed. At least 160 fatalities occurred in the city. [18] The future first mayor of South Bay, Aubrey (a.k.a. "Orb" or "A.O.") Walker, along with his brother, Haughty D. Walker (a.k.a. "Haught"), survived the great hurricane of 1928 by gathering family members and joining a number of other South Bay citizens on a barge in the canal this action allowed them to survive the flood waters that swept over South Bay and ultimately engulfed Okeelanta. [31] Throughout the 1920s, Okeelanta had suffered several floods and muck fires. After being flooded severely during the 1928 hurricane, it was abandoned. [32] Bean City was also destroyed during the hurricane, but it was eventually rebuilt by Arthur Wells. [33] Sebring Farms was reduced to piles of rubber, with only four tall royal palm trees left standing. [6] The hotel at Miami Locks was the only building to survive the storm. [6] Ninety-nine people died in that town. [6] In Chosen, only two people escaped a house that had sheltered nineteen people. Twenty other residents took refuge in a building which lost its roof during the storm, forcing the occupants to move into the restroom. A house that was full of people floated about half a mile (0.8 km) from its original location. The refugees were unaware that the house was moving until it collided with a railroad embankment. [23]

Floodwaters persisted for several weeks, greatly impeding attempts to clean up the devastation. Burial services were quickly overwhelmed, and many of the bodies were placed into mass graves. Around 75% of the fatalities were migrant farm workers, making identification of both the dead and missing very difficult as a result of this, the count of the dead is not very accurate. The Red Cross estimated the number of fatalities as 1,836, which was taken as the official count by the National Weather Service for many years. Older sources usually list 3,411 as the hurricane's total count of fatalities, including the Caribbean. However, in 2003, the U.S. death count was revised to "at least" 2,500, making the Okeechobee hurricane one of the deadliest natural disasters in United States history. A mass grave at the Port Mayaca Cemetery east of Port Mayaca contains the bodies of 1,600 victims of the hurricane. [26]

Central and North Florida Edit

In Fort Myers, property damage was slight, limited mostly to scores of small boats and fishing shacks along the waterfront. [34] Nearly all cigar factories in Tampa were closed after wind and rain drove too much moisture into the buildings. [35] Offshore, the fishing smack Wallace A. McDonnell was beached near Piney Point, though all of the crew survived. The Cuban schooner Isabel Alvado sank offshore Boca Grande. The crew, who were immigrants, were rescued by the Coast Guard and later deported. [36] In Martin County, a bridge connecting Stuart and Palm City was severely damaged and closed to traffic as a result. A temporary ferry service across the St. Lucie River was established and operated until repairs to the bridge were complete in the summer of 1929. [37] In Fort Pierce, most of the effects were confined to the waterfront areas. A warehouse, fish houses, docks, and a bridge across the Indian River were destroyed, while several other buildings were unroofed. Damage in the city totaled about $150,000. [18]

In the interior areas of Central and North Florida, effects were mainly confined to agricultural losses, particularly citrus, though wind damage occurred to structures. Between Sebring and Lake Wales, 200 telephone poles were toppled. In Bartow, business building windows were shattered and signs were knocked down, while several roofs and chimneys also suffered damage. Winds gusting up to 70 mph (110 km/h) lashed Lakeland. Many trees were uprooted and several buildings were impacted, including the hospital and a number of businesses. At Florida Southern College (FSC), the north side of the gymnasium collapsed while other buildings on campus were damaged to a lesser degree. The trees in the citrus grove surrounding FSC lost much of their fruit. Overall, Lakeland suffered about $50,000 in damage. [38] In Orlando, damage to properties was described as slight. [34] Strong winds up to 50 mph (80 km/h) affected the Jacksonville area, resulting in minor damage at Jacksonville Beach. [39]

Elsewhere Edit

Outside Florida, damage from the hurricane elsewhere in the United States was minor. [2] In Georgia, low-lying streets were flooded or washed out in the Savannah area. Additionally, winds downed trees and power lines. [1] Heavy rainfall occurred from eastern Florida through coastal Georgia, the Carolinas, and southeast Virginia. The highest rainfall total was 12.53 inches (318 mm) at Darlington, South Carolina. [40] The storm caused flooding in North Carolina and brought near-hurricane-force winds and a 7 foot (2.1 m) storm surge to the Norfolk area. [41] After the hurricane became extratropical, its wind field became very large. Atlantic City, New Jersey, recorded winds of 76 mph (122 km/h) despite being far from the center. [1]

Deadliest United States hurricanes
Rank Hurricane Season Fatalities
1 "Galveston" 1900 8,000–12,000
2 "San Ciriaco" 1899 3,400
3 Maria 2017 2,982*
4 "Okeechobee" 1928 2,823
5 "Cheniere Caminada" 1893 2,000
6 Katrina 2005 1,200
7 "Sea Islands" 1893 1,000–2,000
8 "Indianola" 1875 771
9 "Florida Keys" 1919 745
10 "Georgia" 1881 700
Reference: Deadliest US hurricanes [42] [43]

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, relief arrived from nearby areas such as Miami. Early on September 18, a train leaving Miami carried 20 doctors and 20 nurses to West Palm Beach. [44] The Miami Red Cross Citizens Relief Committee, which was established to provide aid for victims of the storm, transported "hundreds of loaves of bread, gallons of milk, pounds of coffee and sugar, blankets, cots, and medical supplies." The first relief train was ridden by U.S. Senator Joseph T. Robinson, the Democratic vice presidential nominee during the election that year. At least 100 people were brought to Miami for medical treatment. In Lake Worth, 25 people were treated for various injuries at the Gulf Stream Hotel and the local fire station. Dr. W. A. Claxton, chief of the Miami Department of Public Welfare, requested antitoxin, typhoid serum, and at least 200 tetanus serums. There was also a request for 1,000 more cots in West Palm Beach and Kelsey City. [45]

Racial issues Edit

In Florida, although the hurricane's destruction affected everything in its path, the death toll was by far the highest and the aftermath the worst in the economically poor areas in the low-lying ground near Lake Okeechobee, such as the towns of Belle Glade, Chosen, Pahokee, South Bay, and Bean City. [46] Around 75% of the fatalities were among migrant farm workers, most of whom were black.

The black workers did most of the post-hurricane cleanup work. Reflecting racial and class discrimination, authorities reserved the few caskets available for burials for the bodies of whites. [47] White victims received a formal burial service, although in a mass grave, at Woodlawn Cemetery in downtown West Palm Beach. [46] This was the only mass gravesite to receive a timely memorial. [47]

In contrast, the bodies of black victims were burned in funeral pyres or thrown into mass burial sites such as the ones in West Palm Beach and Port Mayaca.

Robert Hazard, a resident of West Palm Beach, established the Storm of '28 Memorial Park Coalition Inc. to fight for recognition of the black victims of the storm. In 2000, the West Palm Beach burial site was reacquired by the city of West Palm Beach and plans for construction of a memorial began. The site was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and a state historical marker was added in 2003 during events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the hurricane. [46]

African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston explored the effects of the hurricane on black migrant workers in her seminal 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. This is her best-known work and it was included on TIME magazine's 2005 list of the '100 best English-language novels published since 1923'. [48] [49]

Improved building codes Edit

In the aftermath of the hurricane in coastal Florida, observers noted that well-constructed buildings with shutters had suffered practically no damage from winds that caused serious structural problems to lesser buildings. Buildings with well-constructed frames, and those made of steel, concrete, brick, or stone, were largely immune to winds. The use of shutters prevented damage to windows and the interior of the buildings. With the 1928 hurricane coming so soon after the 1926 Miami hurricane, where a similar pattern had been noticed, one lasting result of the 1928 storm was improved state and local building codes. [50]

Flood control Edit

To prevent a recurrence of disasters like this one and the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, the Florida State Legislature created the Okeechobee Flood Control District, which was authorized to cooperate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in flood control undertakings. [51] After a personal inspection of the area by President Herbert Hoover, the Corps of Engineers drafted a plan to provide for the construction of floodway channels, control gates, and major levees along the shores of Lake Okeechobee. A long-term system was designed for the purpose of flood control, water conservation, prevention of saltwater intrusion, and preservation of fish and wildlife populations. [51] One of the solutions was the construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike.

In the early 21st century, there are concerns related to the dike's stability because studies have indicated long-term problems with "piping" and erosion. Leaks have been reported after several heavy rain events. Proposed solutions to the dike's problems have included the construction of a seepage berm on the landward side of the dike, with the first stage costing approximately $67 million (US$). [52]

The storm was named the San Felipe II hurricane in Puerto Rico because the eye of the cyclone made landfall there on September 13, the Roman Catholic feast day of Saint Philip, [13] father of Saint Eugenia of Rome. (King Philip II of Spain happened to die on this day.) It was named "Segundo", Spanish for "the Second", because of the weaker but destructive "San Felipe hurricane" that had struck Puerto Rico on that same day in 1876.

In Puerto Rico, since European colonization, storms and hurricanes were named after the name of the saint's day that the storm hit the island. For example, they named the Great Hurricane of 1780 as San Calixto, after Saint Callixtus, whose feast day is October 14 the 1867 San Narciso hurricane, the 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane, and the 1932 San Ciprian hurricane were also named after the saints' feast days on which they occurred (respectively, Saint Narcissus of Jerusalem on October 29, Saint Cyriacus on August 8, and Saint Cyprian on September 26). [53]

In 1953, the United States Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) started naming hurricanes by human female names until 1978. That year both gender names began to be used after control over naming was relinquished to the World Meteorological Organization. It was not until 1960 that Puerto Rico stopped naming hurricanes after saints. Two cyclones have been given both women's and saint's names: Hurricane Betsy (Santa Clara, August 12, 1956) and Hurricane Donna (San Lorenzo, September 5, 1960). [13]

If there is any good fortune attached to Hurricane Matthew, it may well belong to Florida

TAMPA — It was still two hours from dawn Friday morning when storm trackers at the National Hurricane Center detected a shift in the path of Hurricane Matthew.

The change was small — a mere 5-degree northeasterly tilt — but it may have spared Floridians billions of dollars in property damage and other destruction that accompanies a major storm making landfall, experts say.

For sure Matthew dealt more than a glancing blow to Florida, leaving hundreds of thousands without power and whipping up storm surges that flooded streets and ravaged the state's northeast coast.

But the hurricane's new path meant the 120 mph winds it was packing remained over the Atlantic Ocean, sparing large swaths of the east coast from the worst of the storm.

"As far as damage goes, they dodged a big bullet," said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground. "It would easily have been a $10 billion storm had it come ashore."

Matthew's new bearing kept the eye of the storm — where winds are strongest — roughly 75 miles offshore from Palm Beach County. That narrowed to about 35 miles east of St. Augustine by Friday afternoon.

Even so, winds of more than 100 mph were measured along Florida's east coast. But those were typically gusts rather than the sustained winds that cause the most damage.

The storm's deviation was not a surprise to meteorologists since it was well within the forecast cone. What exactly caused it is tougher to gauge.

"Last night, when it was undergoing collapse of the inner eye wall, that may have made it jog a little more east," Masters said.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Ruskin said the storm was likely weakened and affected by wind shear and its western side passing over land.

"Anytime you get close proximity to land, you will start to get some effects," forecaster Rodney Wynn said.

Matthew's eye measured about 32 miles across, Wynn said. It had sustained winds of about 120 mph close to its center and 70 mph winds stretching out over a 50-mile radius.

That drop in wind speed is significant since the force wind exerts on homes and other buildings increases exponentially. For example, a 120-mph wind can exert about 50 percent more force than a wind of 100 mph.

University of Florida researchers deployed portable weather stations on Satellite Beach close to Melbourne ahead of Matthew's arrival. It recorded gusts up to 77 mph, said Kurt Gurley, a professor in the department of civil and coastal engineering.

"If that storm path had been just a small bump to the west then it would have resulted in a dramatically different story for wind speeds on land," Gurley said. "That would be a lot of property damage, particularly for homes that are older and weathered longer and built differently."

Previous hurricane seasons show just how much damage a Category 3 storm can cause. Hurricane Wilma, which made landfall near Marco Island in 2005, generated $10.3 billion in insurance claims, according to a National Hurricane Center report. It estimates that a similar amount in storm damage went unclaimed, making it one of the five costliest storms in U.S. history.

"If (Matthew) had taken the worst-case scenario, we would have had severe structural damage over many, many miles of east Florida coastline," Gurley said.

But Florida's near miss may simply have spread the damage and flooding over a wider swath of the state than a direct hit, warned Corene Matyas, a UF associate professor of geography who investigates the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

Matthew knuckled along the coast for hundreds of miles, increasing the areas exposed to tropical storm-force winds, storm surge and rainfall, she said.

The Great Hurricane of 1938 in Photos

PLYMOUTH, N.H. -- It slammed into land and rapidly moved north, destroying buildings, altering coastlines, ripping apart forests and shocking a population that had never experienced a hurricane.

About 700 people died 75 years ago when the storm known variously as the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 or the Long Island Express began plowing up the Northeast coastline at 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 21, 1938.

A weather station in Massachusetts recorded sustained winds of 121 mph and gusts as high as 186 mph - a major storm by modern standards that dwarfs the land wind speeds recorded in storms Irene and Sandy, which also devastated parts of the Northeast in recent years.

(MORE: 10 Weather Anniversaries to Remember in 2013)

"It was the strongest, the most devastating, the deadliest and the costliest for the region and still is," says Lourdes Aviles, a Plymouth State University meteorology professor in Plymouth, N.H., who this month published the book "Taken by Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane."

The hurricane was the death knell for many mills and factories that had barely survived the Great Depression. It stripped 4 million bushels of apples from orchards, killed livestock and felled millions of trees, according to Aviles' research. Bridges and dams were destroyed, and rail travel was halted for weeks.

The hurricane's death toll varies from 500 to 800, depending on the source. Aviles adopts the Works Progress Administration's count of 682. Tidal surges as high as 26 feet were recorded, and Rhode Island suffered the most casualties.

The storm was notable not only for the death and destruction it spawned, but also the forward speed that gave it one of its nicknames. It hit Long Island, N.Y., and southern Connecticut moving at an amazing 47 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

(MORE: Hundreds of Snakes Found in Long Island Home)

Despite the recent woes brought by Sandy and Irene, any similar storm in the future will beset a population that has no appreciation of what a true hurricane is, Aviles says.

"No matter what storm you think about in the last century," she says, "nothing here compares with 1938."


The hurricane was the death knell for many mills and factories that had barely survived the Great Depression.

It stripped 4 million bushels of apples from orchards, killed livestock and felled millions of trees, according to Aviles' research. Bridges and dams were destroyed, and rail travel was halted for weeks.

A tree fallen on a house shows the storm damage in Peterborough, N.H. during the Great New England Hurricane of 1938

Damaged boats line the New London, Conn., waterfront following the deadly hurricane which hit America's Northeast

The hurricane's death toll varies from 500 to 800, depending on the source.

Aviles adopts the Works Progress Administration's count of 682. Tidal surges as high as 26 feet were recorded, and Rhode Island suffered the most casualties.

The storm was notable not only for the death and destruction it spawned, but also the forward speed that gave it one of its nicknames.

It hit Long Island, N.Y., and southern Connecticut moving at an amazing 47 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Despite the recent woes brought by Sandy and Irene, any similar storm in the future will beset a population that has no appreciation of what a true hurricane is, Aviles says.

'No matter what storm you think about in the last century,' she says, 'nothing here compares with 1938.'

A look back at the worst hurricanes in Connecticut history

1 of 20 A Connecticut National Guard photographer took this photo during an aerial assessment of damage caused along the shoreline by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Click through to see photos of some of the worst hurricanes to have landed in the state. Connecticut National Guard/Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

5 of 20 Hurricane Gloria

7 of 20 Buy Photo Hurricane Irene

10 of 20 Hurricane Carol

11 of 20 Hurricane Carol
August 31, 1954

13 of 20 Hurricane Donna

14 of 20 Hurricane Donna

16 of 20 Hurricane Diane

Hurricane season is here and Connecticut is no stranger to its devastating effects.

Many New Englanders are still recovering from the May 15 storms that wreaked havoc and caused thousands of power outages. And last year, three major hurricanes left more than 16 million Americans across the U.S. in the dark.

Hurricane season officially starts on June 1, but the chance of seeing a tropical storm in Connecticut this year is relatively low&mdashbetween 18 and 20 percent&mdashsays Dan Kottlowski, Senior Meteorologist at AccuWeather. That doesn't mean you don&rsquot need to be prepared.

"Just in case, you need a hurricane plan in place, especially if you live in a flood prone area that you may have to evacuate," Kottlowski said. "Don&rsquot wait until the last minute."

AccuWeather meteorologists predict that between 12 to 15 tropical storms could hit the U.S. before the end of November, and six to eight are forecasted to become hurricanes. But most of the tropical activity is going to be taking place down the Gulf Coast area.

The most damaging storms turn into hurricanes with winds of more than 74 mph like the hurricane of September 1938, now considered by weather experts to be the worst storm to ever hit New England. The day it landed, the Associated Press reported that a &ldquotropical hurricane&rdquo was heading towards the Northeast, but this was before the advance of forecasting technology. When the hurricane struck the coast, it took nearly everyone by surprise.

"The 1938 was one of the worst hurricane to ever hit New England," said Kottlowski. "It was a fast-moving hurricane and caught a lot of people off guard. When the storm started accelerating, it caused a huge storm surge that we've never seen in modern history in New England.&rdquo

Most of the destruction was caused by water and the worst damage was right along the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Almost 700 people died and more than 60,000 people lost their homes, according to news reports.

1 of 59 This archival photo shows damage in Milford following the hurricane of September 1938. Photo: Contributed Photo / CT Show More Show Less

2 of 59 This old photo, courtesy of John Gallbronner and the WalnutBeach/Myrtle Beach Historical Society, shows damage in Milford following the hurricane of September, 1938. Photo: Contributed Photo / CT Show More Show Less

4 of 59 This old photo, courtesy of John Gallbronner and the WalnutBeach/Myrtle Beach Historical Society, shows damage in Milford following the hurricane of September, 1938. Photo: Contributed Photo / CT Show More Show Less

5 of 59 This old photo, courtesy of John Gallbronner and the WalnutBeach/Myrtle Beach Historical Society, shows damage in Milford following the hurricane of September, 1938. Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

7 of 59 A Greenwich citizen is rescued by first responders from another time during the Hurricane of 1938. Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

8 of 59 People inspect buildings on Fairfield Beach wrecked by the Hurricane of 1938. Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

10 of 59 Route 15, the Merritt Parkway in Greenwich, Conn. after the Hurricane of 1938. Contributed by Greenwich Historical Society Contributed PhotoGreenwich Historical Society Show More Show Less

11 of 59 Contributed photo from the Gotch Collection, Greenwich Library. A Model T was trapped in the flood down by Steamboat Road and Arch Street during the 1938 Hurricane. Gotch Collection/Greenwich Library/Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

13 of 59 Byram Bridge is covered with water from the Great Hurricane of 1938. Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

14 of 59 In September 1938, what was dubbed the Great New England Hurricane smashed coastal areas of New York state and New England, including Greenwich, with a ferocity rarely seen. The Category 3 hurricane struck on Sept. 21, killing hundreds in New England and New York state. Greenwich, which was sheltered by Long Island, escaped major damage that affected eastern Connecticut, Long Island, Massachusetts and especially Rhode Island. But the town did sustain hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Pictured are two unidentified men working to get water out of a typical basement in Greenwich. Photo courtesy of the Greenwich Historical Society. Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

16 of 59 Boats and piers at New London, Conn., are a mess of broken wreckage after the hurricanes. Fire at the height of the storm added to the terror and destroyed a quarter of a square mile of the business district, Sept. 12, 1938. Sights like this were common all along the coast, as new New England faced a cleanup job which took weeks. AP Show More Show Less

17 of 59 In September 1938, what was dubbed the Great New England Hurricane smashed coastal areas of New York state and New England, including Greenwich, with a ferocity rarely seen. The Category 3 hurricane struck on Sept. 21, killing hundreds in New England and New York state. Greenwich, which was sheltered by Long Island, escaped major damage that affected eastern Connecticut, Long Island, Massachusetts and especially Rhode Island. But the town did sustain hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Pictured, a toy sailboat is passed from one person to another while waters of the Byram River surround them. Photo courtesy of the Greenwich Historical Society. Contributed Photo Show More Show Less

19 of 59 The Hickory Bluffs neighborhood in Norwalk is flooded during Hurricane Carol in 1954. Courtesy of the Norwalk Museum Show More Show Less

20 of 59 File photo of Seaside Ave., in Milford, Conn. during Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27th, 1985. File Photo Show More Show Less

22 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27, 1985 - Milford - Waves from Long Island Sound break over a car stopped by power lines brought down by the tree on New Haven Avenue in MIlford, Conn. as Hurricane Gloria struck the Connecticut shoreline. UPI photo / Frank Lorenzo UPI/ST Show More Show Less

23 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27 or 28, 1985 Neighbors come out to see the damage on High Ridge Road above Briar Brae Rd. where a tree knocked a telephone pole across High Ridge Road. File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

25 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27, 1985 - Two of several boats washed ashore at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

26 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27, 1985 - The Didisheim residence, a 200 year old home, was damaged when a large old tree in their front yard fell onto the house. Theodora Litsios File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

28 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 30, 1985 - The Smiths of Brookside Road, Darien were still dealing with the results of the hurricane. The Smiths have temporarily covered the roof of their house with a large tarpelin until the tree which fell on the house could be removed and repairs made. File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

29 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 28, 1985 - sightseers and boat owners look over the sailboats beached on Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

31 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27 1985: This tree which damaged the house in the background was cut up and carted to the street by neighbors of the Ridgeway St. house in Springdale. Tom Ryan File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

32 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27, 1985: Youths leave Cove Island Beach during the storm. Tom Ryan File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

34 of 59 Hurricane Gloria Sept. 27, 1985 - Weed Ave along the Holly Pond which flooded. Kids who had a day off from school use the middle of the road for a walkway protected by police who warned cars away. Tom Ryan File Photo/ST Show More Show Less

35 of 59 A home on Fairfield Beach Road is submerged in Pine Creek in Fairfield, Conn., as treacherous weather caused by Tropical Storm Irene blew through the area on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. Show More Show Less

37 of 59 Severe flooding has hit Westport in the last two years -- shown here downtown during Tropical Storm Irene two years ago and again during Superstorm Sandy last year. File Photo Show More Show Less

38 of 59 Westport scenes during Tropical Storm Irene, which hit town two years ago on Aug. 28, 2011. File Photo Show More Show Less

40 of 59 Westport scenes during Tropical Storm Irene, which hit town two years ago on Aug. 28, 2011. File Photo Show More Show Less

41 of 59 Tropical Storm Irene would leave many in the dark for days but her devastation paled in comparison to Superstorm Sandy a year later. File Photo Show More Show Less

43 of 59 Monday, August 29, 2011 -- The Connecticut National Guard took Governor Dannel P. Malloy on a helicopter flight across the State of Connecticut the day after Hurricane Irene struck to provide the Governor with an aerial survey of the storm's damage across the state. (Connecticut National Guard) Show More Show Less

44 of 59 Household items damaged in Hurricane Irene are piled by the street on Point Beach Drive in Milford on Thursday, September 1, 2011. Brian A. Pounds Show More Show Less

46 of 59 Jay Johnson of Milford watches as a wave from the onset of Hurricane Sandy crashes into a waterfront home on Melba Street in the Bayview section of Milford on Monday, October 29, 2012. Johnson, a Melba Street resident, was checking on his own home during the noon high tide. Brian A. Pounds Show More Show Less

47 of 59 Damage to beach front homes in the Lordship section of Stratford, Conn. following Hurricane Sandy Oct. 30th, 2012. Ned Gerard Show More Show Less

49 of 59 Houses that flooded during hurricane Sandy in Old Greenwich Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Helen Neafsey Show More Show Less

50 of 59 A flooded Weed Avenue during Hurricane Sandy in Stamford, Monday morning, Oct. 29, 2012. Bob Luckey Show More Show Less

52 of 59 Flooding on Quentin Road in the Compo Beach neighborhood on Tuesday, Oct. 30, the day after Superstorm Sandy hit Westport. Paul Schott Show More Show Less

53 of 59 This house overlooking Candlewood Lake near the Pleasant Acres Beach in Danbury, Conn. was heavily damaged reportedly by falling trees from the high winds of Hurricane Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Carol Kaliff Show More Show Less

Reynaldo Lopez surveys the damage to his family's home in Danbury on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. The house sustained the damage due to a large tree falling on it Monday evening because of storm Sandy.

56 of 59 This house in the Lake Waubeeka community in Danbury, Conn., was heavily damaged by falling trees during Hurricane Sandy. Carol Kaliff Show More Show Less

58 of 59 David Baldelli Jr. 8, stands by the tree that fell on his Danbury, Conn. home during Hurricane Sandy Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Michael Duffy Show More Show Less

Stormy history of Florida’s Pigeon Key

Getting to Pigeon Key these days isn’t as easy as it used to be. In years past, it was a popular place to take a break -- and maybe grab a cold drink or dash a few lines on a postcard -- during the long drive from Miami to Key West. A ramp from the two-lane highway led to the island, which some described as the nation’s most beautiful rest area.

The opening of the new, four-lane U.S. 1 in 1982 changed all that. Engineers decided to relocate Seven Mile Bridge, placing it a few hundred yards to the east of Pigeon Key, leaving the island abandoned. Its handful of buildings were left to decay in the moist air and the scorching sun.

Sight-see at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The $11 tours last about two hours and include ferry service. Tickets can be purchased at the Pigeon Key Foundation’s gift shop in Marathon, Fla., in an old railroad car at 1 Knight’s Key Blvd. or by calling (305) 743-5999. Additional information is available at

More than 10 years passed before the nonprofit Pigeon Key Foundation began restoring the buildings and lobbying, successfully, to get them on the National Register of Historic Places. For $11, visitors can travel to the island by boat and share in a grim chapter of its history from 75 years ago.

The new highway’s opening in 1982 marked the second time Pigeon Key, named for the large flocks of the birds found here, had been abandoned. Residents in 1935 fled as a huge hurricane advanced on the Florida Keys.

Back then, the Weather Bureau didn’t assign names to tropical storms. If it had, Hercules would have been appropriate. With sustained winds of more than 200 mph and a storm surge 20 to 30 feet high, the hurricane remains one of the strongest to strike the continental U.S.

Despite the size of the tempest, few people remember the storm that obliterated Islamorada and Upper Matecumbe and Lower Matecumbe Keys. Each week, thousands of motorists on U.S. 1 pass by mile marker 81.5 in Islamorada without noticing the 18-foot-tall stone memorial standing beside the roadway. Within it lie the cremated and skeletal remains of many of the 423 people who perished on Sept. 2, 1935.

About 30 miles south of Lower Matecumbe, Pigeon Key was spared the full fury of the hurricane. Yet it is inextricably linked to the disaster.

During the Great Depression, the small key was a beehive of activity. Construction had begun on the original Overseas Highway and hundreds of men -- nearly all of them unemployed veterans of World War I -- descended on the island aboard the Florida East Coast Railway’s trains.

“The federal government set up the [New Deal] program to give them jobs. [They] were here working on the bridge system,” says Kelly McKinnon, the foundation’s executive director and the island’s only year-round resident. But, he says, an attempt to move those men to safety during the hurricane went horribly wrong.

"[Government officials] found out the storm was coming and sent down their biggest, heaviest locomotive and loaded all these men on it,” he says. “It only got up as far as Islamorada and the train was lost over the seas.”

The hurricane’s storm surge sent the railroad cars and the vets inside tumbling into the water. Nearly all of the passengers perished in what some contemporary observers described as a tragedy that could have been avoided.

The most vocal critic was author Ernest Hemingway, who was living in Key West. He reached the obliterated islands by boat on Sept. 4. Decrying the federal government’s slow response to the approaching hurricane, Hemingway alleged that the dead veterans were “practically murdered.”

“The Florida East Coast had a train ready for nearly 24 hours to take them off the Keys,” the outraged author wrote in a letter to his editor. “The people in charge are said to have wired Washington for orders. Washington wired Miami Weather Bureau, which is said to have replied there was no danger and it would be a useless expense. The train did not start until the storm started.”

Hemingway also noted that 30 miles of track had been washed away and predicted -- correctly -- that train service to the Keys would never resume.

“This was one of three construction camps at the time,” guide Eric Johnson explains as he leads visitors on a tour of the now-restored buildings, including the bunkhouse and mess hall. Inside what was once a bridge tender’s home is a small museum with displays about the history of the Keys and the killer storm.

“It was small and compact but very ferocious,” Johnson tells the guests.

Following a tour, visitors can stay for a picnic or a swim in the sparkling blue sea. The use of snorkeling gear is included in the $11 admission, as is the two-mile boat ride from Marathon, Fla. During the trip, passengers move from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico as the boat passes under the Seven Mile Bridge.

“It’s the best deal in town, for sure,” McKinnon says. “It might be the best deal in the Keys. It gets more expensive the farther south you go.”

Survivors, scientists recall ‘Great Hurricane’

The storm caused the wreck of these yachts in Onset Bay, Wareham. Globe photo/File 1938

Irene Goodwin Kane, then 14, returned home to Roslindale from Girls’ Latin School on Sept. 21, 1938, to find her mother pacing the house from room to room, fretting about the weather.

As her father arrived home from work, a vicious wind whipped around their Kittredge Street home beneath a sky gone gray. He parked out back as usual, but then, watching the wind, moved his car to the front.

“About five minutes after he had parked the car, this enormous tree in our backyard came completely uprooted and came crashing down, right where his car would have been parked,” said Kane, 89. “That was when I realized that this was really bad.”

It was worse than she could have known.

On that September afternoon 75 years ago today, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 tore into New York’s Long Island and then Milford, Conn., and raged through Massachusetts and Vermont, leaving a path of flooded towns, flattened homes, and fires caused by downed power lines.

”This enormous tree in our backyard came completely uprooted and came crashing down,” said Irene Goodwin Kane, who was 14 when the storm hit. “That was when I realized that this was really bad.” The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

The Category 3 hurricane killed 564 people and injured more than 1,700, according to the National Weather Service, and destroyed nearly 9,000 homes. The storm’s peak wind gust, recorded at Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, was 186 miles per hour.

According to the Weather Service, the hurricane produced storm tides of 14 to 18 feet across most of the Connecticut coast, with 18- to 25-foot tides from New London east to Cape Cod.

Of the areas devastated by the rising coastal waters, one of the worst hit was Narragansett Bay, where a storm surge reached 12 to 15 feet and destroyed most structures along the water, according to the Weather Service. In Providence, the storm tide reached almost 20 feet, the service said on its website.

The Weather Service said sections of Falmouth and New Bedford were submerged under as much as 8 feet of water.

Damage to the fishing fleets in Southern New England was catastrophic. A total of 2,605 vessels were destroyed, with 3,369 damaged, authorities said.

Coming before televisions, computers, or weather satellites, the storm’s speed and fury took both meteorologists and residents by surprise, according to forecasters.

Meteorology professor Lourdes B. Avilés said the storm remains “the one to which all other New England hurricanes are sooner or later compared.”

“When the storm surge came, the impact caused seismographs to record [vibrations] almost as if it were an earthquake,” said Avilés, author of the book “Taken by Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane,” published earlier this month.

Avilés, a professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, will be among the meteorologists gathered at a commemorative hurricane conference at the Blue Hill Observatory & Science Center Saturday, the anniversary of the devastation.

She said the 1938 storm was unusual for New England hurricanes in that it caused devastation not only along the coastline, but well into the region’s interior.

It arrived after four days of rain, pouring 3 to 6 inches of water onto already saturated ground in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, causing floods that washed away roadways and railroad lines.

The altar was still standing at St. Hedwig Parish in East Cambridge. Thomas C. Connors/Globe Staff/File 1938

As bad as it was, Avilés said, there has sometimes been a tendency to exaggerate the hurricane’s speed. Its swift progress north, measured at 50 miles an hour, has sometimes been overstated as 60 or 70.

She said there also is exaggeration in a popular story about Charlie Pierce, a young US Weather Bureau meteorologist, correctly predicting that the storm would hit New England and being overruled by his superiors, who then failed to issue a hurricane warning.

Her research showed that Pierce probably created an accurate forecast, Avilés said, but that it was done as a practice exercise and would not have been reviewed by senior meteorologists.

In the absence of modern forecasting tools, she said, meteorologists in 1938 lacked the data to predict the storm’s path accurately.

They could not have foreseen that the hurricane would change the shape of the coastline, shifting sand and topsoil, opening new channels, even creating Shinnecock Inlet on Long Island, Avilés said, or the changes it would bring to inland terrain.

“The forest destruction was so large that the whole forest ecosystem was severely changed,” Avilés said. “New species grew. Animals that normally lived in those areas were displaced.”

New England has not seen another Category 3 hurricane since 1954, when two major storms struck within 12 days of each other. But Glenn Field, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, warned that statistically the region is due.

“If you take the average of the Southern New England coast, it’s pretty close to 59 years,” he said. “Fifty-nine years [ago] is the last time we had a Category 3 hurricane, and that is about — give or take 5 or 10 years — the return period that one would expect.”

Field cautioned that such averages are not helpful for predicting specific weather patterns and that another major hurricane could strike this year, in 10 years, or in 20. But he is concerned, he said, that New England residents do not expect such a storm and are not prepared for one.

“It would be pretty much a shock if something like that came through today,” he said.

It was a shock in 1938 for Win Firman, then a student at Amherst College.

“My brother and I were at football practice, and the wind was blowing harder and harder, and he punted and the ball came back . . . over his head,” Firman, 94, said. “And the coach said, ‘Well, we’d better call it quits.’ ”

As Firman and his older brother walked back to their dormitory, shards of glass from the college gymnasium’s windows flew by them, he said. They “hunkered down” in the dorm as the storm passed, he said, and emerged the next morning to find roofs blown off campus buildings and large rows of trees flattened.

“So college was called off for a couple of days, and students went out with saws and began to saw up the trees and put the logs away,” Firman said. “The place was a disaster.”

In Woods Hole, the water rose 13 feet, and a tidal wave within the storm pushed into Buzzards Bay and then flowed back out, reaching across the peninsula to its tip at Penzance Point, according to Jennifer Gaines, director of the Woods Hole Historical Museum.

The wave drowned two caretakers who looked after elegant estates that stood upon the point, as well as three Coast Guardsmen who had come to rescue them.

“It was horrible,” Gaines said. “Every shoreline, every harbor, the boats were all washed ashore.”

In Roslindale, Kane’s family had no idea what to do in a hurricane, but they stayed inside as the powerful winds roared past and emerged to find similar tree damage at the nearby Arnold Arboretum.

“They were all lying down like matchsticks, side by side, pointing down the hill,” she said. “There were trees down everywhere.”

The 10 weirdest military mysteries

Posted On October 07, 2020 05:27:00

Copy print of a well-known photograph of airmen at Bertangles stripping the remains of Richthofen’s wrecked Fokker Dr.1 Triplane and his two Spandau machine-guns, 22 April 1918. Salvaged by No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. From the collection of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

The world is full of mysteries and the military world is no exception. Each war has been accompanied by strange stories, potential double agents, secret messages and unsolved disappearances. Scary? Intriguing? You tell me! Keep scrolling to learn about the top 10 mysterious events in military history.

1. The foo fighters were more than a band name.

Almost everyone has heard of the foo fighters, but few realize the origins of the 90s rock band name. In WWII, the foo fighters were a genuine concern. At night, American and British aircraft pilots frequently spotted bright lights in the distance. At first, they assumed the lights were Russian or German flyers. Until they began to move, that is.

The lights would change direction and speed away faster than any aircraft possibly could. Hundreds of reports were recorded, with some pilots even reporting dogfights with them. Since no one was able to figure out what the crafts were or who piloted them, they were given the nickname “foo fighters.” To this day, it’s one of the biggest military mysteries of WWII.

2. The Red Baron’s killer was never found.

The Red Baron, a German fighter pilot during WWI, was so famous that even Snoopy knew of his aerial prowess. He was one of the most lethal fighters in history, with over 80 confirmed kills. He was a serious threat to the Allied forces throughout the majority of WWI, until he was mysteriously shot down.

A Canadian pilot named Roy Brown claimed to have shot down his plane, but the details of his story didn’t quite make sense. No one knows for sure who killed him, but whoever it was would have had their name in the history books. The Red Baron was such an amazing pilot that the Allies helped to give him a decent burial in France in honor of his skill.

3. A Hungarian soldier turned out to be a serial killer…and he was never found.

During WWI, a man named Bela Kiss enlisted in the Hungarian army. He notified his landlord that he would be away for some time, and left for war. Some time later, the landlord heard that Kiss had died in combat, so he decided to rent the house to someone else. When he arrived to clean it out, however, he walked into a house of horrors. Several bodies were inside preserved in alcohol, all belonging to women who had disappeared.

It turns out, Kiss had been tricking women into marriage before killing them and taking control of their finances. Despite an extensive search, and a few reported sightings, he was never found.

4. A plane vanished out of thin air, starting the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.

It’s hard to imagine that six planes could straight up disappear, but that’s what happened. On December 5, 1945, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, collectively known as Flight 19, stopped responding to the control tower while on a training flight. A Mariner flying boat was deployed to search for the missing planes, but the Mariner soon vanished too. While no bodies or wreckage was ever found, 27 men and six aircrafts were never seen again.

While many rumors cropped up over the years, the disappearance probably has nothing to do with the supernatural. The most likely explanation is that Flight 19’s leader, Navy Lieutenant Charles Taylor, got so disoriented that he led the planes out to sea until they ran out of gas and crashed into the Atlantic. The rescue sea plane is likely to have exploded, as flying boats were prone to catching fire. Still, after all these years the resting place of the planes have never been found.

5. A strange ad was placed in the New Yorker magazine. But who published it?

Anyone can put an ad in the paper, but one published in the New Yorker was more than a little suspicious. The ad was for a real game called “Deadly Double,” but the copy gave a not-so-secret message: “We hope you’ll never have to spend a long winter’s night in an air-raid shelter, but we were just thinking … it’s only common sense to be prepared. If you’re not too busy between now and Christmas, why not sit down and plan a list of the things you’ll want to have on hand. … And though it’s no time, really, to be thinking of what’s fashionable, we bet that most of your friends will remember to include those intriguing dice and chips which make Chicago’s favorite game: THE DEADLY DOUBLE.”

A similar ad for the same product included the phrase, “Warning! Alerte! Achtung!” Okay, then. The dice shown in the ad’s images were even more strange. Instead of numbers 1-6, numbers like 7, 20 and 12, were shown. Some believe these bizarre ads were really a hint to American spies that an attack on Pearl Harbor was on the horizon. The creator’s widow has denied any suggestion that the game had any connection with spy activity, but it still seems a little fishy.

6. Lieutenant Colonel Pete Ellis predicted the bombing of Pearl Harbor over 20 years before it happened.

In 1920, Lieutenant Colonel Pete Ellis was a bit of an oddball in the Navy. He was known for being pretty solitary and working late into the night. When asked what he was doing in his office so late, he said he was working on “a special project.” A year later, he appeared to go mad. He gave a lengthy prediction of the future, including Japan’s attack on several islands on the Pacific, the targeting of Pearl Harbor, and the use of torpedo planes. Considering torpedo planes hadn’t been invented yet, he sounded crazy…except he was right.

All his predictions were dead on. After his prediction, he asked for a 90-day leave, which was personally approved by the Secretary of the Navy. He was given a sealed envelope and sent off to Europe, but he never arrived. He went to Japan instead, where he mysteriously died. A man who knew him travelled there to search for him…but he was found dead too! It’s a strange story with many loose ends, but it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know the details.

7. Ralph Sigler’s death doesn’t seem like an accident.

Ralph Sigler, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, arrived in America when he was eight. He enlisted in the Army in 1947 and got married to a German woman shortly after while he was stationed abroad. When his tour was over, he brought her back to the states and the couple had a child. Over a decade later in 1966, FBI agents arrived at his doorstep to let him know he had been randomly selected to participate in counterespionage. The family’s ordinary life was turned upside down overnight.

In the following years, Sigler fed a great deal of false information to the SVR, Russia’s intelligence agency. When he met Russian officials in person, he quickly earned their trust. He identified 14 SVR agents and over time grew worried that the Russians were starting to suspect something. The FBI approached him by this time, but Sigler made plans to retire from the Army

His first contact with Russian officials came in 1968 in Zurich, and he soon earned their trust. Authorities have speculated that Sigler’s work led to the identification of 14 SVR agents. He was given an estimated 0,000 in compensation, every last penny of which he gave to the Army.In the mid-1970s, Sigler worried that he was “getting in too deep” and the Russians were becoming suspicious, which may have led him to offer extra information under pressure. By this time, the FBI had approached him.

The situation grew complicated, and some American intelligence officers were suspicious of his loyalties too. He was forced to take a polygraph test, which showed he was extremely on edge. Concerned, the Army arranged for Sigler to stay at a motel. Sadly, he never left. His body was found in the motel room after he had been electrocuted by two motel lamps. While the Army ruled his death a suicide, most believe he was killed and possibly tortured by Soviet agents. In his last call to his wife, he ominously told her, “I’m dying. I never lied.” He was later awarded the Legion of Merit cross for his sacrifices.

8. During the Vietnam War, troops on both sides claimed to be attacked by large, ape-like creatures. Vietnam doesn’t have apes.

The Vietnam war was chaotic to say the least, but there’s one mystery that has never been explained. Troops from both sides often reported exchanging blows with a group of human-like creatures who had reddish hair and ape-like features. Strangely, there isn’t a single known species of ape in Vietnam.

Other soldiers reported an enormous snake around 100 feet long with a massive, three-foot head. In Vietnamese folklore, such a creature was known as a “Bull Eater.” For comparison, the largest snake ever recorded is a reticulated python named Medusa, who’s 25𔃼″ long. Either that was a massive exaggeration or a tall tale…or a 100-foot mystery monster is lurking in the jungle.

9. A Revolutionary War hospital dealt with plenty of death, yet no one knows where the dead were laid to rest.

During the American Revolution, there were obviously a lot of injuries. To serve these wounded soldiers, a hospital was built in the new town of Easton, Pennsylvania. Needless to say, 18th-century medicine wasn’t the best. While medical records were poorly kept, it’s safe to say that hundreds or thousands died there. The strange part is that there’s no record at all of where they were buried. Since there was no formal grave yard nearby, the easiest assumption is that somewhere around Easton, there’s a mass grave from the Revolutionary War that has yet to be found. If I lived in Easton, I might move.

10. What happened to Paul Whipkey?

Fast forward a few years to the 50s. Lieutenant Paul Whipkey was working in the Air Force at Fort Ord, California. He was one of the first to witness an atomic bomb test, and he was doing pretty well. When 1957 arrived, however, things began to go awry. Whipkey stopped acting like himself, dropped weight, and appeared to be constantly ill. He developed black moles all across his body and lost all his teeth. While he was at work, two men in suits frequently arrived to speak with him, and colleagues reported that he always appeared tense when the men left. On July 10th, he left on a trip to Monterey, but he was never seen again.

The events following are shrouded in secrecy. The army cleaned out his apartment almost instantly, and he was classified as a deserter. The army seemed reluctant to search for Whipkey, and in 1977 they destroyed all files on him, yet his status was updated from “deserter” to “killed in action.” Some believe he died on a secret CIA mission, but most people believe he suffered from radiation poisoning due to the atomic bomb detonation he witnessed. I guess we’ll never know!


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  2. Sankalp

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