Monday, October 6, 2003

1938 hurricane an unimaginably ferocious storm: "Once upon a time, hurricanes could sneak up on us and strike without warning. Those of us who remember the hurricane of 1938 know full well how valuable weather forecasting is today. Tom Brokaw, on the anniversary, Sept. 21, said, 'It struck without warning and showed no mercy.' The devastation was so massive that those of us who lived through it remember the savagery as if it were yesterday.

"The rain was going crosswise, and the wind was whistling, screaming and shrieking like a jet engine. Sweeping across seven states in just seven hours, with walls of water up to 50 feet high, and winds so strong, it destroyed every instrument designed to measure them. Paint was literally sandblasted off of automobiles and the wind tossed railroad cars along the coast like tinker toys."

"At Watch Hill, 44 cottages virtually vanished and everyone in them was killed by the 50-foot tidal wave that struck at flood tide. Once-towering mansions of the rich and famous at Watch Hill were swallowed up by the water and left only sand. Some 700 people along the coast were killed.

"In the view of some experts, it was the most powerful storm in all American history. Winds were clocked at 185 miles an hour before the instruments broke. Inland, there were three factors affecting towns such as Norwich. It had been raining for days, and several upstream dams had burst along the Shetucket and Quinebaug rivers, sending walls of water through Plainfield, Jewett City, Baltic, Occum, Taftville and Greeneville."

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