Crazy Facts About the 1938 Hurricane

It was the first hurricane to hit Long Island in over 100 years.

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Photo: For educational use only. The East Hampton Library, Long Island Collection. For any other use, please contact The Long Island Collection, East Hampton Library, 159 Main St., East Hampton, NY 11937. 631-324-0222 x 4 or email Used with permission.

Long Island has been battered by some extremely powerful storms over the years. If you lived through Hurricane Gloria, Superstorm Sandy, or even the Blizzard of 1978, the destruction and loss from these storms will forever be etched in your mind. In September 1938, an historic storm hit Islanders particularly hard, with some long lasting effects that are still seen today.


Below we present some crazy historical facts about the Hurricane of 1938. You can also see photos of the aftermath of the 1938 hurricane by clicking here.


  • It had been over a hundred years since New England had been hit by a big hurricane
  • A newspaper report after the storm said that records showed that the Island had been only been hit twice before by hurricanes, in 1815 and 1821
  • When the storm turned north and missed Florida, weather forecasters thought it would dissipate in the the North Atlantic
  • Due to a lack of modern technology to track and forecast hurricanes at the time, the fast-moving storm took Long Islanders by surprise
  • The New York Times forecast for that day called for "more rain for today and tomorrow cooler." There was no hint that a hurricane was barreling down on Long Island
  • The hurricane hit Long Island on September 21, 1938
  • The storm hit Long island at about 2:30pm
  • The hurricane is referred to as “Great New England Hurricane of 1938”
  • At the time, hurricanes were not named the way they are today and were known for the year and the region they hit
  • The storm was also known as the “Long Island Express Hurricane” referring to its speed
  • The hurricane made landfall near Bellport around 2:30pm as a Category 3
  • When the hurricane hit Long Island, the impact is said to have registered on seismographs in Alaska
  • Unfortunately the hurricane hit during high tide causing a tidal surge
  • Reports say waves reached 40 feet high
  • A Mean Lower Low Water of 8 feet was recorded in Port Jefferson
  • The Empire State Building recorded winds of 120 mph
  • Peak steady winds were recorded at 121 mph
  • Gusts reached up to 186 mph, as recorded in Massachusetts
  • The lowest atmospheric pressure was 27.94 observed in Bellport
  • Approximately 2 Billion trees were destroyed due to the storm across New England
  • About 3,500 trees were lost in the Bridgehampton-Sagaponack-Hayground area alone
  • In East Hampton, almost half of the trees planted during the American Revolutionary War on Main Street were destroyed. These were a cherished landmark in the area
  • On Dune Road in Westhampton 179 homes only 26 stood afterwards. Most of were uninhabitable
  • Around 60 people died on Long Island - 29 of them at or near Westhampton Beach
  • Total cost of the storm for the East End of Long Island alone was estimated to be $6.2 million (1938)
  • Almost 50 barns on the East End were lost
  • In Montauk it is reported that 150 fisherman were homeless after the storm
  • 80 fishing craft were destroyed or damaged in Montauk
  • The storm created 12 new inlets, including Shinnecock Inlet
  • Moriches Inlet, created in 1931 by a winter storm, was substantially widened
  • Montauk was an island temporarily
  • All of the new inlets were filled with wrecked cars, broken trees, structural debris, and millions of tons of sand except Shinnecock
  • An estimated storm tide of 15 feet recorded  across eastern Long Island
  • The storm surge in Western Long Island Sound was 5 1/2 hrs after landfall
  • 20,000 miles of power and telephone lines were downed
  • In 1953, the United States began using female names for storms
  • The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men's and women's names were included in the Eastern North
  • Pacific storm lists
  • In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico