Throwback Thursday 6-26-2014

The Hurricane of 1938

Two years after the flood of 1936 that devastated the Millyard here in Manchester (view more here) was the Hurricane of 1938. The Hurricane of 1938 was “the first major hurricane to strike New England since 1869.” The hurricane made its initial landfall on September 21st on Long Island and continued up where it hit New Hampshire. It quickly caused “$22 million (in 1938 dollars) in direct damage and killed 13 people [in New Hampshire].

First hand accounts…

NHPR has a great piece about the effect of the storm. In it, Chris Jensen writes, “That odd color of the sky. On September 21, 1938 that’s what worried Beatrice Dorsey, a 10-year-old living in Plainfield, New Hampshire. “The sky above my house was green. It was pretty scary, that ominous green,” said Dorsey. Dorsey and many other New Englanders didn’t know that green sky meant the most damaging hurricane to hit New England was on its way.” Jensen continues in writing, “There wasn’t much of a chance to warn people, particularly in rural areas like Gilsum where Marjory Trombley lived. She was 11 years-old, living in a farmhouse with her mother and grandmother, and their house had never been hooked up for electricity. “We didn’t even know it was a hurricane until it was over. Imagine that,” she said.”

Some startling facts…

“Late in 1938 the Federal Writers Project – which sent reporters and photographers throughout New England – published a 221-page report on the hurricane. Among its findings in New Hampshire: * In Manchester, only 10 minutes after a group of women working at the Cohas Factory Building left, “more than half the top floor was swept away.” * In front of the State House in Concord five 100-year-old elm trees were blown down. But “the famous statue of Daniel Webster, although hit by one of the trees, came through without a scratch.” “Plymouth State associate professor Lourdes Aviles who has written a new book about the hurricane: “Taken By Storm, 1938” [collected these numbers through her research]: * Almost 20,000 structures were damaged. * About 26,000 automobiles lost. * About 6,000 boats lost. * Railroads were out for as long as two weeks. * Eighty percent of people with electricity lost it. * There were at least 1,000 railroad or road washouts and 100 bridges gone. * Almost 325,000 sugar maples were lost.”

In perspective…

“If that hurricane occurred today the loss in New England would be $40 billion to $55 billion, according to a 2008 study by Risk Management Solutions, a consulting group.” “It is still the most devastating and expensive New England hurricane. Any recent weather event that you can think of doesn’t even come close,” Aviles said.

 All images courtesy of Manchester Historic Association. Thank you!

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