- As Hurricane Sandy lumbers up the East Coast, leaders and residents are bracing for the worst. Hurricane Sandy may join the ranks of these storms as those that are ingrained in the minds of the locals.
A brief history of hurricanes hitting the Northeast
- Located on the western edge of the Gulf Stream, a very warm water current, the East Coast of the United States is often a target for strong Atlantic-based hurricanes (as opposed to Carribbean and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, which tend to do more damage on Florida and Alabama to Texas).
- The Gulf Stream, combined with wind currents, tend to bring hurricanes west towards Florida, then steer them north towards the mid-Atlantic states, eventually pushing them out over the North Atlantic.
- While the Carolinas have seen direct hits by numerous hurricanes, New England has seen fewer of them. But there have still been storms that have caused plenty of damage.
The "Long Island Express," a.k.a. the "Great New England Hurricane," 1938
- This was the costliest and deadliest storm in New England history, comparable to one that hit back in 1635. The storm stayed off the coast of the United States for its entire life, rapidly strengthening to a Category 5 hurricane. Instead of drifting back out to sea, a high pressure system to the east forced it to track roughly due north. It weakened to a Category 3 hurricane by the time it hit Long Island, but was moving very fast, at about 50 mph. Eastern Long Island was the first place hit, in the afternoon hours of Sept. 21, 1938.
- The hurricane plowed through New England, pummeling Rhode Island. In Westerly, 100 people died from the storm surge alone.
- Rivers along the hurricane's path overflowed, flooding cities. Hartford, over 30 miles inland, was submerged.
- All told, as many as 800 people died as a direct result of the hurricane, which caused about $5.05 billion worth of damage in today's dollars.
1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane
- While this hurricane caused about $100 million in damage (in 1944 dollars) to New England, the real destruction was in New Jersey. When the storm made landfall on Sept. 14, small towns along the Jersey Shore were heavily damaged.
- The real legacy from this storm was the USS Warrington, a U.S. Navy destroyer that sunk while trying to sail through the storm. Only 73 aboard the ship, carrying 321, survived.
Hurricane Carol, 1954
- Hurricane Carol struck the Eastern Seaboard twice. First, on Aug. 31, 1954, the storm glanced Cape Hatteras off the coast of North Carolina, where winds of 90 to 100 mph were recorded. Later that day, Carol moved through Long Island and into Groton, Conn. Sixty-eight people died and there was an estimated $460 million in damages.
- In Connecticut and Rhode Island, high tide helped produce a 14-foot storm surge, which caused flooding in Providence, R.I.