New AMS Book Remembers the Great New England Hurricane

September 20, 2013 · 1 comment

It has been known by many names: the Yankee Clipper, the Great New England Hurricane, the Long Island Express . . . or simply the New England Hurricane of 1938. With fatalities estimated at between 500 and 700, it’s still the deadliest hurricane in modern New England history, and only Sandy last year was more costly (property damage from the ’38 storm amounted to almost $5 billion in 2013 dollars). Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of the storm’s landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Long Island, and to coincide with that occasion, the AMS has just released a new book about the event: Taken by Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane, by Lourdes B. Avilés. (To order the book, visit the AMS bookstore.) The first book to detail the science of the storm, it also delves into the Great Hurricane’s significant societal impacts. In the preface, Avilés discusses her motivation for writing the book:

My goal has not been to retell the story that has already been told, although there has to be some of that too, but to take a somewhat interdisciplinary approach to weaving together different aspects–different stories–of the 1938 Hurricane. This includes what happened before, during, and after the event, in the context of the meteorological history of the storm and its associated destruction and devastation; casualties, survival, and recovery in the affected population; environmental and geological changes caused by the storm; the science of hurricanes and of early-20th-century meteorology; and, finally, the added perspective of other intense hurricanes that have affected and no doubt will again affect the region.

AMS Director of Publications Ken Heideman, who wrote the foreword to Taken by Storm, 1938, recently talked to Avilés about the hurricane and her new book; the complete interview is below.