For anybody who lives on Long Island or in New England, the Great Hurricane of 1938 will forever be remembered as the “worst of the worst”. Killing hundreds of people, destroying 57,000 homes and totaling $306 million in damages (~40B in 2014), the storm was the strongest and costliest storm to ever strike Long Island and New England. Damage from the storm, on trees and buildings, was still visible in the early to mid 1950′s, almost 20 years after the storm made landfall.
The storm’s origins can be tracked back to ship data from the Eastern Atlantic ocean, where the storm was first observed near the Cape Verde Islands on September 9th, 1938. The storm then, presumably, tracked west-northwestward while organizing. Data is sparse, but not incomplete — the storm reemerges in more dense data near the Bahamas on September 20th, 1938. At this point, the storm is estimated to have attained Category 5 status — with maximum sustained winds over 140 miles per hour. But it was here that the trouble began, for those in the Northeastern United States. The storm would never actually strike the Bahamas. Instead, it would begin veering to the north, on the periphery of a trough to its east.