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The Eye of the Storm:
A Journey into the Natural Disasters in Connecticut

The Hurricane of 1938

On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 21, 1938, a hurricane hit Connecticut that is even now considered the state's worst natural disaster of the 20th century. Striking without warning due to late and inaccurate weather forecasts, it invaded the state on the heels of four days of intense rain that had already deluged the area. The hurricane traveled up from Long Island Sound in a path of complete destruction with its winds, floods, and tidal waves, and the state suffered unimaginable damage. Screaming winds leveled trees and whole forests, smashed houses, destroyed buildings, and left country roads and city streets impassable. The autumnal equinox, with its usual high tides, added to the damage by generating a storm surge of over seventeen feet above normal levels. Tidal waves of fifteen to thirty feet ravaged the coast, leaving it virtually unrecognizable. The combined destructive forces of the winds, floods, storm surge and tidal waves wiped out bridges, utilities, and rail lines. Throughout New England 682 people lost their lives in the storm's wake.

Water and West Main Streets
Mystic, Connecticut
Water and West Main Streets
Mystic, Connecticut
Photo CD Number:4768 IMG0009

< Street flooding from the 1938 hurricane, Mystic. The view is probably looking northeast from Water Street across West Main toward Pearl Street. A gas station with signs, including one reading "TYDOL" can be seen on the right. Both streets are submerged, and some wires appear to be down. Utility poles and several wood buildings can be seen.

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Downtown Mystic
Downtown Mystic, Connecticut, following the Hurricane of 1938.
Photo CD Number: IMG0004-4768.PCD

< Piles of debris litter West Main Street in Mystic, Connecticut, following the Hurricane of 1938.

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Sandbags hold back the floodwaters
Sandbags hold back the floodwaters in Hartford, Connecticut, following the Hurricane of 1938.
Photo CD number 2828 img0023.pcd

< A dike of sandbags holds back the floodwaters that resulted from the Hurricane of 1938. This view shows Sequassen Street in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 25, four days after the hurricane struck.

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New London
A lighthouse tender steamboat was driven onto railroad tracks near the dock in New London, Connecticut, during the Hurricane of 1938.
Photo CD Number IMG0003-1452

< The lighthouse tender steamboat "Tulip" was driven onto railroad tracks near the dock in New London, Connecticut, during the Hurricane of 1938.

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Railroad tracks washed off their bed
Railroad tracks were washed off their bed on to the rocky shoreline of Niantic, Connecticut, during the Hurricane of 1938.
Photo CD Number IMG0004-1452

< Tracks belonging to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad were washed off their bed and on to the rocky shoreline of Niantic, Connecticut, during the Hurricane of 1938.

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The sloop yacht Dolphin wedged
The sloop yacht Dolphin was wedged between two Mystic area houses during the Hurricane of 1938.
Photo CD Number: IMG0016-4173.PCD

< The sloop yacht Dolphin was wedged between two houses in Mystic, Connecticut, during the Hurricane of 1938.

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Link to other essays in this Journey:

>> Introduction: The Eye of the Storm
>>
The Blizzard of 1888
>> The Flood of 1936
>> The Hurricane of 1944
>> The Floods of 1955

>> Guideposts
>> Suggestions for further reading