The 1938 Long Island Express (aka The Great Hurricane of 1938) was the first major tropical cyclone to make landfall in the coastal area of Long Island and New England since 1869. A classic Cape Verde storm, the Express formed off the coast of Africa in mid-September. It was believed to have reached Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (the Saffir-Simpson scale wasn’t invented until 1971, but bear with me), then weakening and making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane.
On September 21, it struck just west of Mystic Beach, New York on Long Island, in the vicinity of the Fire Island National Seashore. The storm crossed the Long Island, then the sound, and struck a second time near the Bridgeport-Miflord-New Haven area.
The hurricane was estimated to have killed as many as 800 people, damaged or destroyed nearly 60,000 homes and other structures, and caused property losses estimated at $ 4.72 billion in damages (in today’s dollars)
To date it remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in New England history. To date.
Hurricane Earl is on a path quite similar to the path estimated to have been followed by the Express. See the map below. There were no satellites, no Doppler Radar, and no Hurricane Hunter aircraft in 1938. So forecasters basically made educated guesses as to storm paths and landfall locations. The shaded area on the map is the modern day equivalent of the educated guess.
More than likely, the storm will stick to somewhere in the middle of that range. But the National Hurricane Center takes no chances. Appended to the end of their forecast discussion on the 11:00 am EDT forecast discussion for September 01, 2010:
THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT NHC AVERAGE TRACK FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 300 MILES AT DAYS 4 AND 5. GIVEN THIS UNCERTAINTY...IT IS TOO SOON TO DETERMINE WHAT...IF ANY...PARTS OF THE U.S. EAST COAST MIGHT SEE DIRECT IMPACTS FROM EARL LATER THIS WEEK.
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