Saturday, May 13, 2006
GH38 - The East Coast's Big One
The storm surge struck the coast from Rhode Island across Long Island and the coast of the sound behind, the storm surge coming ashore at high Spring tide to produce a storm surge of over 20 feet, while Category 4 winds pushed 50 foot waves ashore atop that.
Coming as it did the day before Hitler invaded the Sudentenland and before the saturation media of today, GH38 was largely missed by most of the nation, just as it was missed by the National Weather Service in the days before satellites, radar and hurricane hunter aircraft. There was no forecast, and some people flocked down to the shore to watch the big storm role in. A lone junior forecaster warned of the impending disaster, but was discounted.
Cherie Burn's The Great Hurricane of 1938 is powerful reading, perhaps powerful enough that no one who stayed for Katrina would want attempt it . If you live anywhere along the east coast, and are suffering from Katrina fatigue, I would highly recommended it. With the impact of global warming on hurricane formation, it is an urgent reminder that it could happen to you.
Burn's tales of heroism and foolish risk, of loss and redemption, ring familiar to those who know Huracan's power. One common thread with the recent experience of NOLA and the Gulf Coast is the looting of downtown Providence, R.I.
"The looters outnumbered the officers, who were more intent on rescue than law enforcement" could have been taken from the Times-Picayune in 2006, but comes from an articles in Yankee Magazine in 1938.
"It was the opportunity so many had waited for, to finally have some of what they had been missing through the long Depression years," wrote David De John in magazine. "Brazen and insatiable, they swarmed like rats, they took everything."
Apparently, this sort of event is as likely to happen among what Burns calls "the yeasty mix of Yankees, Irish, Italians and Portuguese" that populated Providence in 1938 as it was among poor, inner-city blacks of 2006. The common thread is not race or political point of view, it was poverty and opportunity.
I leave you with this quote, from writer Frances Legrand who weathered the storm. "Confronting a storm is like fighting God. All the powers in the universe seem to be against you, your irrelevance is at the same time humbling and exhilarating."
Katrina NOLA New Orleans Hurricane Katrina Think New Orleans Louisiana FEMA levees flooding Corps of Engineers We Are Not OK Great Hurricane of 1938 hurricane
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