Inserting this here instead of the Irene thread -
Roger Angell's recollection of the hurricane of 1938 (in the New Yorker's News Desk blog):
August 28, 2011
Posted by Roger Angell
Waiting out Hurricane Irene on the high ground of our fifth-floor apartment brought back memories to me of an earlier city storm vigil, in September, 1938, when I was getting ready to go off to college to start my freshman year. That hurricane came without a name (the cutesy nomenclature first came into use in the nineteen-forties) and without warning. Along with almost everyone else, I’d had no idea that hurricanes could happen anywhere near New York, or, if they did, that they could be a menace to anyone not at sea. This one slipped up the coast a hundred miles east of Cape Hatteras, grabbed a left, and came ashore at Bayport, Long Island, at three in the afternoon, packing winds of a hundred and twenty-five miles an hour. It quickly crossed the Island and the Sound, slammed into Connecticut and Rhode Island, and, diminishing, proceeded up into Massachusetts and Vermont that night and off into Quebec. Six hundred-odd people died, mostly along the Sound. Westerly and Watch Hill, R.I., were virtually obliterated, the streets of downtown Providence were under thirteen feet of water, and two or three of the minuscule but populated Thimble Islands, just off Branford, Connecticut, had disappeared.
Even when it was over, news of the disaster and its implications arrived in fragments and penetrated slowly. Watching the rain in the city, I was upset mostly because I had tickets for the next day’s national men’s tennis semi-finals at Forest Hills, and sensed that they would be postponed. I was due for Freshman Orientation at Harvard early the next week, but had to wait another five days before the New Haven Railroad tracks could be cleared. Rolling at last along the familiar, shore-hugging route toward Boston, I witnessed the dingy, everyday trackside environs progressively turn into something I’d seen before only in photographs of the World War, with broken-off telegraph poles, twisted and roofless houses, overturned billboards, and side streets overflowing with sodden trash. When we pulled into the New London station, the gawky bulk of the Orient Point ferry was lying on its back on the next track.
When I walked into Harvard Yard the next morning, overdue but excited, some of its ancient elms were prostrate and already being sawed into firewood. By that time, though, I’d probably begun to forget about the hurricane, and even to feel a little impatient with it, and I’d stopped thinking about good luck and bad, just as I’m doing today.