Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938

Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938Bravo to R.A Scotti Sudden Sea is an engaging, thrilling and honest record of the Category 5 hurricane that slammed into New England in September of 1938 Hardest hit was Rhode Island where residents 433 died most from the storm surge and where the author Scotti later grew up Scotti has written numerous fiction books, she did a great deal of research on New England hurricanes and it is clear she knows how to weave a story The editing in this book is also quite good At 244 pages the book is a fast read.The early chapters cover the storm as it formed in the Azores, worked its way to Florida alarming meteoroligists and made a right turn up the coast Once the hurricane veered away to the north and provided sighs of relief to Florida residents, the books covers the failure of the meteorologists in the mid Atlantic states to issue proper hurricane warnings as the hurricane made its way north The speed of the hurricane was unheard of as it moved 600 miles from off the coast of Florida to Rhode Island in only 12 hours which explains some of the failure of notification The other explanation is that the last hurricane of any note to hit New England was than a 100 years earlier and the only real deadly one had occurred way back in the 17th century.When the hurricane hit Long Island and an hour later hit Rhode island, no one was prepared There are vignettes of many people in the earliest hours watching their summer homes wash away including Catherine Hepburn Entire beach communities were wiped out.As the hours progressed, the flooding and storm surges took substantial numbers of lives Now floating in the water, residents held on to driftwood and parts of their now destroyed homes to avoid drowning Many watched as loved ones disappeared into the froth of the surging ocean.The story mostly follows the stories of the residents of Beavertail Island and Jamestown Island in the Narragansett Bay, these were the areas demolished by the hurricane The story of the children on the school bus trapped in the storm surge was quite emotional One of those wait, what just happend to those kids moments Beyond the human fatalities, there were numerous wilderness areas along the coast that were forever stripped of trees and farms destroyed Most of the cottages along the beaches that were not made of stone or anchored to stone foundations were wiped away Hundreds of thousands of surivors were displaced as the storm barreled inland through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont More than half of Vermont s sugar maple trees were said to have been lost It was, in short, one mother of a storm and the fourth deadliest hurricane on record until Katrina Closing out the story there was the scene of the 19 people who took shelter in the Napatree Fort on the peninsula jutting out into Long Island Sound Only four of the nineteen clammers huddled there survived Lilian and Jack, two of the survivors, married one year after the hurricane Their son later said If they could weather the thirty eight hurricane together, they believed they could go through anything Despite the fact that so many lost their lives, oddly enough I did not find this book depressing Rather I think it was a real heart felt homage to those who lost their lives and to those survivors who had to experience the loss of loved ones, some of whom they were holding on to when the storm surge swallowed them up Here are some other excellent history books on American natural disasters that I can highly recommend, although due to the gravity and weight of the subject matter I would not suggest reading all in a row Isaac s Storm Erik Larson s book about the 1900 Galveston HurricaneThe Johnstown Flood David McCullough s book on the 1889 floodHemingway s Hurricane Phil Scott s book about the 1935 hurricane in the Florida KeysThe Big Burn Timothy Egan s book about the 1910 Fire in Idaho and MontanaUnder a Flaming Sky Daniel James Brown s book about Minnesota fire of 1894Five Days at Memorial Sheri Fink s book about Hurricane Katrina in 2013Sudden Sea was the most personal of these seven great reads for me Maybe it was the recency and the Anglo Saxon Protestant backgrounds of all those who died that especially resonated with me The vignettes stand out in this book and many of the younger survivors were still alive in 2003 and some interviewed when the book was written Most of the other books, with the exception of Five Days at Memorial, covered events from long ago where there weren t any survivors still alive at the time of publication 5 Stars. Popular EPub, Sudden Sea The Great Hurricane Of 1938 By R.A Scotti This Is Very Good And Becomes The Main Topic To Read, The Readers Are Very Takjup And Always Take Inspiration From The Contents Of The Book Sudden Sea The Great Hurricane Of 1938, Essay By R.A Scotti Is Now On Our Website And You Can Download It By Register What Are You Waiting For Please Read And Make A Refission For You On September 21, 1938, southern New England prepared for a glorious late summer day Summer had been hot, muggy and stormy, but this day promised a wonderful respite of lowered humidity, brilliant sun and flat sea Until, that is, a freak Category 5 hurricane poorly forecast and under reported that was supposed to head harmlessly out to sea after missing Florida instead took a fast track up the Atlantic coast, savaged Central Long Island and barreled right into Narragansett Bay In just a couple of hours, it whipped away scores of summer homes, beach clubs, restaurants and other aspects of the leisurely life and left several hundred Rhode Islanders dead or missing As late as mid afternoon the glorious day was still in full swing but by suppertime any pretense of normality or historical permanence had been swept away The pleasure of a well heeled summer life was gone with the wind and with water that flattened everything a dozen miles or inland The late R.A Scotti has given us a very enlightening and fast paced account of what happened that day, to numerous breakdowns in government forecasting and local news media to what families were forced to improvise to keep themselves, their servants and children out of the maelstrom and fighting for life She wrote this book vividly and well, with lovely touches like white capped bay water that was foamy as ale poured out too fast In fact, this book is so intensely readable that I was tempted to rate it five stars Unfortunately, though, a couple of errors took some of the fun out of it for me The author states on page 47 of this book that one of the measures humankind had tried to weaken a hurricane over the years included detonating a nuclear device within the eye of the storm this is simply untrue There was some speculation by Americans working for the government s Project Plowshares peaceful use of the atom in the early 1960 s that it might be a possibility, but it never happened any than atom bombs were used to carve out another trans Isthmus canal in Central America For reasons why it was a dumb idea from the git go, check out National Geographic magazine s November, 2016 article, Nuking Hurricanes The Surprising History of a Really Bad Idea. A minor error, but one that shows a tremendous ignorance toward American popular culture or at least nonexistent copy editing, comes on page 115 when the author refers to one beachfront family s car, a Cadillac La Salle There was never such a vehicle La Salle was a division of General Motors designed to fill a price gap between the comfortable Buick line and the luxurious Cadillac To refer to a Cadillac La Salle makes no sense than speaking of a Lincoln Ford or a Lexus Toyota as though they were distinct car models rather than separate car lines Sadly, author R.A Scotti died in 2010, or perhaps she d have lived to have any such errors ironed out of future editions I still recommend this book heartily, but keep a no pun intended weather eye out for factual bloopers of this kind FROM THE BOOKAs swift and sure as a Joe Louis punch, the hurricane darted up the Atlantic Coast at fifty, sixty and seventy miles an hour, faster than most cars could travel in 1938 No hurricane had ever raced as fast It arrived unannounced It struck without warning, and it showed no mercy Entire beach communities that seemed secure at lunchtime were wiped off the map by supper From Sudden Sea The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A Scotti.Photo A 1934 La Salle automobile I don t think anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks today is the day I m going to die We might think about the work to be done that day or the food we would like to eat or many other items, but not about death But then, death can sometimes outrace you The Great Hurricane of 1938 was one of the worst natural catastrophes to hit the East Coast of the United States Specifically, it aimed for the New England area, which has had massive hurricanes almost every 100 years This one was a doozy It was a weather system that moved so quickly, no one knew it was on its way New Englanders were raking their leaves at noon and dead by suppertime It hit Long Island and Connecticut, but the worst damage was reserved for little Rhode Island, a state that never did anything to anyone The storm destroyed every measuring instrument then available It not only tore leaves from trees but sucked the juice from them A pair of sisters owned 50 shorefront acres on the day before the storm On the day after, they owned2 acres The reason it was so dangerous was because it raced toward New England at such a high speed, no one could have been prepared to flee 600 miles in less than 12 hours You can t even outdrive that The Great Hurricane changed the United States Weather Bureau forever Prior to the event, the organization relied on gut feeling and the vast experience of their elder statesmen A junior colleague sensed the storm would not only get worse but it would head toward New England No one listened to him, as he relied upon facts and formulas though even if they had listened, there was no time to flee The hurricane also changed the East Coast Small shops were replaced by pizza parlours and slot machines Sand dunes that had taken centuries to build were wiped out in two hours In reading this book, I learned a healthy respect for storms The worst one I ve ever experienced was on the Turks Caicos, and I hid under my cottage bed as though that would save me It wasn t even a tropical storm, so I can only imagine the terror in facing the most devastating storm to hit Rhode Island The author outlines the storm from its inception, showing how close it came to bearing down on Florida before it decided to turn north We get introduced to families and parents and drivers and children and lighthouse keepers, who don t survive Actress Katherine Hepburn was in her house, on the water, when it hit, and she and her family lost everything While we might think of hurricanes as wind centric, the devastation was in the waves Similar to tsunamis, the storm generated massive waves that continued to smash, one right after the other Think about thata tsumani can be huge, but it also tells you it s coming and requires time between each of the waves to hit, usually in just three main waves In the 1938 Hurricane, the waves were enormous and came by the hundreds Even if someone was a strong swimmer, they simply didn t stand a chance There s a stunning picture in the book which shows Napatree, Rhode Island the day before the storm, full of large beach homes The next picture shows it the following morning It s just sand God keeps one for every three he returns It is an old belief.For me, this was very close to being a five star book, simply because of the subject matter It s well researched with plentiful interviews of the survivors But I deducted one star because I had to go back and find the characters when they were first introduced, as they appear and then suddenly leave the story, then re appear Also, I wish there was one central map section, as I got lost trying to find the different ones throughout the book I am not really familiar with the New England area, so it would have been helpful to have it all in one place.The book subject has stayed with me It reminded me that we should not take anything for granted or presume we can outwit Mother Nature We can build all we want on barrier islands, but the sea will always take it back, along with any life living on those sands.A young boy survived the storm, which overwhelmed his school bus A strong swimmer as a child, he managed to conquer the water A few years later, on his last day of WWII service, he celebrated by swimming off the shore of Saipan, where an undertow took him The sea always takes back what it should have kept.Book Season Autumn I don t really trust September Growing up in Connecticut, I never thought about hurricane threats until August of 1976 when I was newly married and mother of an eight month old baby Even though we lived 50 miles inland I remember listening to the weather report with great alarm, taping our windows and battening down the hatches, and waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Belle She turned out to be a non event.Nine years later, in September of 1985, Hurricane Gloria arrived By then we were living in a shoreline town, so we decided to evacuate inland to stay with my parents On our way up we stopped to pick up my aunt who lived in a mobile home Our children were bubbling over with excitement until my aunt reprimanded them saying, You think this is funny You have no idea what a dangerous thing a hurricane is She went on to describe the horror of living through the hurricane of 1938, when she was a young 24 year old mother.My father was 17 years old, walking home from school, about 25 miles inland, when The Great Hurricane of 1938 struck Connecticut suddenly and with no warning Hurricane Sandy and the destruction her storm surge caused to our city beach impressed me, living here a mile away from the water But when we showed our pictures to my dad, who is now 90, he shrugged and said it was nothing compared to the devastation left by the 1938 storm.That s when I decided to learn about The Great Hurricane he and my aunt survived, and that is what led me to find this book It was compelling and heartbreaking reading so many frightening stories told by some of the people who lived through it I get it now my aunt s reaction and my father s as well I could scarcely put the book down until I was finished and am grateful to R A Scotti for helping me to get a much better picture of that horrific, sudden storm Her writing certainly made that historic event come alive for me. It has been a year since Hurricane Irma hit Florida, and when I think back on it I still get chills remembering the dread I felt as the storm headed my way We were fortunate, extremely fortunate, considering that just 24 hours before the storm hit, the Tampa area where I live was right in the bullseye of the projected path and forecasters predicted it might still be at CAT 4 strength when it hit.I remember trying to sound calm and reassure out of state family members who were calling, but in all honesty, I was scared And the reason I was scared is because we were trapped, and that is not a comforting feeling when a monster is heading your way and there is nothing you can do but hunker down and hope for the best Callers were saying Get out Evacuate But what they didn t understand was that, as Mother Nature so often does, she dealt us a hand that was unexpected and unlike anything forecasters had ever experienced in handling a hurricane It was one of those perfect storms that sound like a cliche unless you are someone who has experienced one I won t get into details about Irma, but I wanted to emphasize the point of being trapped because it came to mind while I was reading of the New Englanders experience with the Hurricane of 38 I m always having friendly debates with family and friends in California where I grew up about what is worse earthquakes or hurricanes being a native Californian, I have experienced my share of earthquakes, so I ve been on both sides of the fence They ve asked me how I could live in Florida with all the hurricanes coming our way, and I always counter with saying that earthquakes are worse because you can t see them coming, but you can always see a hurricane coming Well, I have to give them the nod, this time, because even though we saw Irma coming, because of the way she came, we had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide I know there are people who would say you should have just evacuated when you knew it was going to hit you But it wasn t that simple Because it was a given that the hurricane was going to make land fall somewhere between Miami and The Keys, as early as a week or before the storm, masses of people from south Florida began to evacuate, and they only had one way to go north Cars began to stall in the mad rush, vehicles ran out of fuel, and before you knew it, the roads out of town were blocked So, now here comes Irma, her cross hairs are right over Tampa, and guess what we are hearing on broadcast TV Find shelter, go to an emergency shelter if needed, go to high ground, and whatever you do, DO NOT TRY TO GET OUT ON THE ROADS We were warned that there was a high probability that we would be trapped on the road if we tried to get out and that because of the storm surge that was predicted there was a real danger of drowning by the way, to give you a better visual, I live on a peninsula where I have The Gulf of Mexico on one side and Tampa Bay on the other I am surrounded by water So, a few family members who lived too close to the beach came to my house and the Wife and I boarded up the windows and pulled everything into the house and garage that could be sent sailing through the air We sat, watching the storm on TV as long as we could, knowing that the power would be going out and it did Was I scared Hell yeah There s nothing like sitting in the dark and hearing the wind, muffled because of the boarded windows but still sounding like a freight train at times, and hearing shit bang against your house Well, even though I was worried, hoping the big trees around the house wouldn t come down, hoping the roof would stay on, I actually received a little relief before the power went out As the storm hit The Keys and started northward, it shifted slightly toward the east and it was also dying down faster than predicted The storm still hit us but because it wasn t a direct hit we were only in the CAT1 range There was minimal damage to my property tree limbs, fence, roof shingles, but the biggest thing is that no one was hurt Hurricane Irma devastated most of the Florida Keys and much of South Florida And there was loss of life I was fortunate, I didn t nearly suffer as much as those Floridians and those in the Hurricane of 38, but I know the feeling of realizing that something is coming at me and not being able to do a damn thing about it but grit my teeth and be prepared to hold on for dear life I know the feeling of being trapped.Remembering that feeling was what kept coming back to me when I read this account Those folks were trapped It happened in a different way and for different reasons but they were trapped nevertheless Unfortunately, that was an era when they did not have the warning systems, the tracking systems, that we now have The folks there were trapped by the unexpected Reminiscent of the tsunami s in 2004 and 2011, the storm surge from the 1938 hurricane hit New England so fast that without warning, the ocean rose up like a tidal wave, and before onlookers could climb stairs or jump in cars to flee, they were washed away and many drowned Houses were picked up off their foundations and carried away or completely demolished Babies were ripped from their mothers arms, and the wind and currents were so fierce that most of the survivors were either nude or partially nude in the aftermath There was one account where parents came to pick up children where a school bus dropped them off and as they watched, a wave rose up and washed the children away There had been warnings in Florida and the Carolinas, but because of primitive technology and lack of experience, all the professional forecasters assumed the storm would turn east and die out as they always did As with Irma and many other of Mother Natures surprises, the 38 monster continued on course and slammed into New England Because of no warning, by the time anyone realized what was hitting them, they were trapped The death toll for the 38 Hurricane was over 600 people and it is considered one of the top ten worst hurricanes in US history Obviously, this book had meaning for someone like myself who has experienced a hurricane, and for an outside reader I will say it still has some heart wrenching moments and gives a thorough description of the forecasting system that was in place at that time The introduction to some of the people involved and some of the victims was a little slow at times but overall this was an informative and powerful book And last but not least I ll still take the hurricanes over the earthquakes. I know that we are in an instant gratification I want it NOW world I don t know if that contributed to me being bored the first half of the book or not There was just too much build up of information before the hurricane finally hit I almost felt bad that I was like Come on, let s get to the hurricane already After I read the book, I almost cried It really touched me that certain people passed away The build up of meeting the people in the beginning, learning about their lives, and continuing up until they perished, was very emotional for me Particularly, the children Now, I am not contradicting myself that I didn t like the buildup of information, but I liked the buildup of characters That was two different things for me I did not like the technical aspect of the hurricane I was hoping for the emotional human aspect of the story I was finally given it, and I was glad that I stuck with it I don t know how to give it 3 1 2 stars, so I am giving it a 4 for the children. I did not learn about this catastrophe until we became regular visitors to Rhode Island, where the storm is remembered by locals because so many people from there died It was given to me to read after I had mentioned Erik Larsen s Isaac s Storm about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.What both incidents had in common was the element of complete surprise because weather forecasting in 1938 was not much better than it was in 1900, especially as politics and ego got in the way Both storms broke all the rules in that they did not veer into the Atlantic like all the others did The only guy who got it right in 1938 was dismissed as an upstart because, unlike all the senior experts, he predicted that the unusually hot summer in New England combined with a Bermuda High a weather pattern which would prevent the classic curve east into the Atlantic would pull the storm straight up the East Coast.Thus, most of those killed were locals who took advantage of the last nice beach weather after the tourist season ended and a train traveling between New Haven and Stonington, CT also got swept into the sea For anyone who hesitated even a moment, there was simply no escape and people were either tossed by the immense storm surge to a safe landing sometimes many miles away , or they drowned This storm seemed to pack punch than anything before or since Katrina might be the only exception , because it hit so many densely populated areas and flattened everything in its path While it caused havoc and high winds in New York City, it totally devastated Long Island, Westerly, Providence Newport, and Buzzards Bay, Massachussetts before veering inland to destroy entire forests in Vermont and New Hampshire.Reading it certainly felt like a white knuckle ride, not only because you don t know who will survive, but also because I am familiar with many of the locations like Watch Hill and Westerly You have to wonder about people today who continue to build houses on breaker islands made of sand. The second best book about an historically devastating hurricane I ve read this year Isaac s Storm was better written but Sudden Sea took place in an area I know better so it had of a personal impact For fans of extreme weather and the history of New England. For Rhode Islanders this is probably as close to must read as it gets The author was a Rhode Islander and made great efforts to give it a strong RI flavor RI took the brunt of the hurricane and suffered the greatest loss in lives and property damage so that seems about right.Setting my RI roots aside I thought the book was good and at times very good but overall not better than a solid 3 If I could give partial stars I d rate it somewhere between 3.25 and 3.5.The opening chapters are very good and reminded me of Sebastian Junger s digressive style of providing just enough scientific information to lift the story.Here s an example from chapter 3 For a hurricane to form, the sea must be at least two hundred feet deep and the water surface than 26 degrees Celsius or about 80 degrees Fahrenheit The cloud cluster must be close to the equator, but not too close Five degrees north or south of the equatorial line and there s not enough planetary spin to create a cyclone Thirty degrees north or south and there isn t enough humidity in the air to fuel the storm Unfortunately she went a little berserk with bad metaphors like this one from chapter 5 In the first furious squall, the sea hissed like a thousand snakes When the storm hits, the resulting destruction reads like those classic Irwin Allen disaster films of the 1970s over the top and a bit unreal It seemed at times like the author was writing for effect than to tell the story The accompanying pictures do, however, support the narrative.The book does regain its strong footing with some very good final chapters about the aftermath of the hurricane.

Rita Angelica Scotti

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  • Paperback
  • 304 pages
  • Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938
  • R.A. Scotti
  • English
  • 06 September 2019
  • 9780316832113

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