Hurricane Irene and the Great Hurricane of 1938

Now that Hurricane Irene is banging on the door in the Hamptons, it seems only natural that memories of other great storms that hit Long Island emerge. Images from Hurricane Bob, Hurricane Belle, Hurricane Carol and Hurricane Gloria have all been conjured over the past few days, but none compare to the Great Hurricane of 1938—the worst natural disaster to hit not just Long Island and the Hamptons but all of New England.

The Long Island Express struck as a Category 3 hurricane on September 21, made all the more devastating for the lack of warning and preparation. Some estimates say it claimed perhaps up to 800 lives by the time it had run its course, and in its havoc it sent a Westhampton Beach theater into the sea, caused water surges massive enough to carve out what is now the Shinnecock Inlet and left behind property loss and damage equivalent to roughly $40 billion today.

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