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The Great Hurricane: 1938 | [Cherie Burns]

The Great Hurricane: 1938

On the night of September 20, 1938, the news on the radio was full of Hitler's pending invasion of Czechoslovakia. Severe weather wasn't mentioned; only light rain was forecast for the following day. In a matter of hours, however, a hurricane of unprecedented force would tear through one of the wealthiest and most populated stretches of coastline in America, obliterating communities from Long Island to Providence, destroying entire fishing fleets from Montauk to Narragansett Bay.
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Publisher's Summary

This is the spellbinding hour-by-hour reconstruction of the most destructive and powerful storm ever to strike New England.

On the night of September 20, 1938, the news on the radio was full of Hitler's pending invasion of Czechoslovakia. Severe weather wasn't mentioned; only light rain was forecast for the following day. In a matter of hours, however, a hurricane of unprecedented force would tear through one of the wealthiest and most populated stretches of coastline in America, obliterating communities from Long Island to Providence, destroying entire fishing fleets from Montauk to Narragansett Bay, and leaving 700 people dead. They never knew what hit them.

Early that morning, several fishermen heading out on calm seas noticed a sudden drop in the barometer and decided to turn back. Hurtling toward them at the unheard-of speed of 67 miles per hour was a fierce storm. It struck Long Island first with the tide at an all-time high under a full, equinox moon. The sea rose out of its shores like a demon, with waves riding a surge of 50 feet that hit the earth so hard they were registered by a seismograph in Alaska. Winds whipped up to 186 miles per hour, trashing boats and smashing homes from West Hampton to Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Using newspaper reports, survivor testimony, and archival sources, Cherie Burns reconstructs this harrowing day and the amazing tales of heroism, survival, and loss that occurred. Those who survived still remember the Great Hurricane as the most terrifying moment of their lives. Burns' masterful storytelling follows the storm's monstrous path and preserves for posterity the way the Great Hurricane changed New England forever.

©2005 Cherie Burns; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

  • 2005 Publishers Weekly Listen Up Award, Nonfiction

"From start to finish, this powerful story of nature's fury and human survival pulls the reader in and doesn't let go." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (169 )
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4.3 (43 )
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  •  
    Tracey Danville, AR, United States 04-23-13
    Tracey Danville, AR, United States 04-23-13 Member Since 2007

    I am a voracious reader (average about 4-5 Audible books a week, in addition to those I "eyeball".) I have been hooked on recorded books since the time of cassettes/CDs and was thrilled when I became an Audible member in 2007. I find reader reviews good guides to spending my credits, so have finally decided to write a few (although, I would rather be reading!)

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Mesmerizing book!"

    Well written, thoroughly researched and enjoyable account of the 1938 storm that greatly affected the Eastern coast of the U.S. I listened to this non-stop on a (business) road trip and it kept me captivated, even in the wee hours of the night (during which I usually listen to scifi or mystery or other plot-driven fiction to keep me from drifting.)

    Highly recommend for any history aficionados or storm watchers.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug Elizabethtown, IN, USA 03-22-08
    Doug Elizabethtown, IN, USA 03-22-08 Member Since 2006
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    "Great Storm Stories"

    The book is well researched and well presented, with anecdotes of many people and how they fared through this incredible hurricane. The reader handles the material very well. A book like this reads quickly because it's organized in a way that allows the events to tell their own exciting tales. It's also a fascinating reminder of how much day to day life in this country has changed in just a few generations, not all for the better.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Athens, AL, USA 04-14-08
    Michael Athens, AL, USA 04-14-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Captivating Account"

    This book is not just informative, but captivatingly written and read. Not only were the personal accounts very well done, but the author placed this event clearly in its historical setting and importance to our country.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helmars Orient, NY, USA 02-10-06
    Helmars Orient, NY, USA 02-10-06 Member Since 2002
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    "Well Done!"

    This was a well researched and engaging book. I learned alot about an event that is still mentioned in hushed tones where I live. Whenever the weather gets bad, the old timers always say "It was nothing like the one one in '38" Bravo to the author-- I will seek out other books she has written. The reader was very good as well.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Freyda metairie, LA, United States 02-08-06
    Freyda metairie, LA, United States 02-08-06 Member Since 2005
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    "Whew"

    I read this book in the wake of Hrricane Katrina.It is amazing, 67 years apart, mother nature's lessons never change, and are seldom remembered. This was a riveting and awesome account.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacqueline Denver, CO, USA 02-21-14
    Jacqueline Denver, CO, USA 02-21-14 Member Since 2004

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Another "Perfect Storm" with Devastating Results"

    One of the most disastrous events in history, 700 people were killed on a mostly clear September day, without ever knowing what hit them, when the Great Hurricane of 1938 slammed into the northern edge of the East Coast.

    How could a hurricane have hit while people were playing and relaxing on the beach? Weren't there any warning systems to notify everyone to evacuate or get to higher ground. As it turns out, NO --in 1938 forecasting the weather was a primitive art at best. It's hard to imagine when our constant modern day reporting shows us film on television long before deadly storms reach us. We are even able to watch storms on the other side of the world due to our high-tech media outlets.

    As a comparison, Hurricane Andrews in 1992 was perhaps the single most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. Even though It followed almost the same path as the GH of '38, however, only 20 people died. It had been tracked by radar for days before it hit, and due to non-stop broadcasting, thousands were safely evacuated.

    This book is captivating in the personal stories of those who lived through the event. People went about there business planning weddings, golfing, shopping, and working, and not the least bit concerned about the possible rain coming later that day.

    GH '38 hit the coast at a vulnerable time. After the Great Depression, most people were struggling to keep food on the table. Even the well-to-do trimmed back on their extravagant lifestyles, and certainly didn't flaunt their wealth, thinking it unseemly. Everyone suffered equally, rich and poor. It was a different era, and this author does a great job of putting you right in the middle of it.

    Well done!



    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha A. Murray New Orleans LA 05-25-13
    Martha A. Murray New Orleans LA 05-25-13
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    "They Never Knew What Hit Them"

    I heard of this hurricane while doing some genealogy research. So when I came across the book, I bought it. I was not disappointed!

    Long before Doppler Radar, television and meteorology, this super hurricane reeked havoc along the shore lines of the north. The reports were spotty but only called for heavy rain. No one mentioned it was a hurricane that was bent on destroying them. After all, hurricanes did happen here.

    The author gives us an insight into the sheer power and size of this monster. What struck me was the speed and size of this storm.

    Although they did not know what caused the flooding and sheer devastation, they reacted as we would...making irrational decisions. Trying to ride out of town when trees blocked their paths and water was rising. Risking their life for their pets and ignoring the severity of the storm are other blunders. Going back to the flooded house to get some treasure is another.

    Without radios or phones due to power outages, they were forced to fend for themselves. Many tried to help anyone they could. Many died.

    What struck me was the general chaos afterward. Many waited weeks before they knew whether their loved ones had made it. Many were reported dead only to wander home days later. It reminded me of Katrina. During Katrina I was in the Dome. I was reported dead but I survived. To this day there is no list of dead or survivors.

    You are tempting fate when you build to the edge of the water. And fill in swampy areas to extend the real estate. This storm tried to teach them a lesson. They chose not to rebuild.

    I recommend this book to everyone who says it can't happen to them. The thing we need to learn is be prepared.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carolyn Louisville, Ky, United States 11-01-08
    carolyn Louisville, Ky, United States 11-01-08 Member Since 2006
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    "Fact more compelling than fiction"

    I listened to this book in a car on the way to Florida, and I didn't want to quit listening even at rest stops. Human stories mesh with meteorological and historic context, building to electrical tension that rivals the finest suspense novels. The narrator is engaging and makes the story of several families in several locations easy to follow. The author's stories of heroism, fate and tragedy are compelling. Best "read" of my membership. Superb for history and weather buffs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    04-15-08
    04-15-08 Listener Since 2008
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    "The Great Hurricane:1938"

    Well written and provides a wonderful look into this event that just may have been forgotten. Very enjoyable reading.The characters are interesting and well developed to their parts in this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    01-02-06
    01-02-06 Listener Since 2005
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    "Bring your boots and umbrella"

    Excellent accounts of the 1938 storm. Being from the area of Long Island, New York that was impacted by this storm, I can vouch that what I "read" is a thorough description of the fierce fury brought forth to the land and people in its way. Many personal stories woven into a well managed chronology of the event.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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