Sandy & The Great Hurricane of 1938

I have always loved storms.  I would drive over the Robert Moses Causeway during them, drinking a coffee and a smoking a Phatty back in the day.  Of course you can’t get away with that kind of behavior any more.  So I have made adjustments.   I wait until I get to the beach to light one up.  So when Sandy rolled into town I couldn’t help but think about the Long Island Express, Hurricane Gloria and Long Island in general.

The Great Hurricane of 1938, The Long Island Express, The Yankee Clipper…

Facts of the 1938 Hurricane     (Francis, 1998)
  • Peak Steady Winds – 121 mph
  • Peak Gust – 186 mph at Blue Hill Observatory, MA.
  • Lowest Pressure – 27.94 in (946.2 mb) at Bellport, NY
  • Peak Storm Surge – 17 ft. above normal high tide (RI)
  • Peak Wave Heights – 50 ft. at Gloucester, MA
  • Deaths – 700 (600 in New England)
  • Homeless – 63,000
  • Homes, Buildings Destroyed – 8,900
  • Boats Lost – 3,300
  • Trees Destroyed – 2 Billion (approx.)
  • Cost – $620 million (1938)









The Long Island Express ripped a hole through the south fork of Long Island turning Montauk and the rest of the Hamptons into an Island, creating the Shinnecock Inlet and forever changing the landscape of Long Island.  The Inlet still remains open and to this day has the only functioning lock system on Long Island. The 1938 hurricane claimed 29 lives on Dune Road and washed a West Hampton Movie Theater 2 miles out to sea with 21 people in it, projectionist and all.  The theater goers at the matinee drowned to death 2 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. On Fire Island a thousand Bungalows were destroyed.  The city suffered major damage and the Empire State Building Swayed from the 100 mile an hour winds.  Six hundred people died on Long Island.

Shinnecock Inlet - 1938

The 38 Hurricane started as a cat 5 and landed as a cat 3 hurricane the cost in property is estimated at 18 billion in today’s dollars!

What if a cat 5 landed today?  What would happen?

I would be strapped to the Bald Hill Monument or on top of Jane’s Hill.

Look at the map…Long Island is nothing but a barrier beach for Connecticut.

Really there isn’t much we can do…We are Islanders and one day we may be washed away to sea.  You have to face that fact and love and respect the ocean, that’s really all you can do!  Of course you can come up with a few hare brain ideas in case of a Discovery Channel super storm.

  • Ax in attic in case of flooding

  • Kayak on roof

  • Pad, pen and bottle of Jack. Drink Jack, write letter throw message into sea.

  • Hope to be rescued

I have some biblical ideas like building a boat for 7 million people and placing it on top of Jane’s Hill.  But that sounds nuttier than a kayak on the roof.  I can hear the conversation now…

“Hey Tom what’s with the kayak on the roof ?”

“Ohh that’s my escape plan. Couldn’t get the funding for Noah’s Ark on Jane’s Hill”

“Kids don’t go near him.  He’s crazy !”

Perhaps I’ll put the kayak in the attic…

Maybe I am crazy….When Hurricane Gloria hit in 1985 I was dropping a hit of acid and hanging out on the roof of the near by strip mall.  Of course I was 17 back then and slightly more reckless…So at the age of 44 when Sandy showed her nasty face I relied on a good old bottle of vodka and a lighter for comfort.

The last civilized drink I made before Sandy showed up is what I call the Blueberry Storm.  I had to use a blender to make it and I knew it would be my last bit of the creature comforts we take for granted.  Like Ice and electricity!

The Sunday before the storm I went out and purchased some ice but didn’t fill up my car’s gas tank.  Big mistake.  Three days later when I managed to get off the block I went searching for gas.  I found myself on “E” in a rough town and by some odd luck on a line with only four cars in front of me.  I filled the tank, pulled out of the station and when I looked down the main road I saw the real line about a hundred cars thick.  I didn’t cut the gas line on purpose.

Here is one of my theories .. the people waiting couldn’t see the other pumps from their line of sight and were unable to pull into them from where they were because of the congestion.

The other theory is… the people on line for gas didn’t say a word to me because they thought I was ‘FIVE O’ or some crazy white boy.  Either way I am glad nothing bad came of it and I had gas…as selfish as that sounds that’s the truth.  I made that tank of petrol last ten days.

I went nine days without light and power and that is nothing compared to what some people have gone through.  I have no reason to complain.  My cousin lost her home in Breezy Point.  Friends and family have offered me a place to stay, warm showers, food and heat.  I showered at several locations over the last week or so, when I couldn’t get off the block the first few days I took cold showers.  Needless to say with all the downed trees there is plenty of wood around to burn in the fireplace.

106 people have died in the USA from hurricane Sandy including a guy on Long Island crushed by a tree right in front of his kids….

Feel blessed you are alive, do not forget those in need and do your best to remain calm.  But most importantly of all remember this will happen again and it may be a lot worse next time.  It could be like the hurricane of 1938.

As for me…I am comfortable knowing I live on an Island. As much as I like the country side I have no plans to ever move into the mountains .  I love the ocean and without her I would not feel complete.  I’ll take the risk, respect her and never leave her side but you can bet if I ever see the ocean draining out before a tsunami I will be the first “mo fo” running for high ground.

“There goes that crazy white boy who cut the gas line!”

“He sure is a running fool”

Hurricanes are going to happen and when they do you need to be inland or off the Island.  If a tsunami hits..well…RUN!  Not that running would help.   Please don’t forget IT’S AN ISLAND.

Be Safe out there and do not forget your floaties.
















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