In 1938, when storm-watchers gave hurricanes names fit for railroad lines, the Great New England formed off Africa’s western coast, hurtled across the Atlantic and turned north, making landfall in Central Long Island.
Winds as fast as 130 miles per hour blew across the peninsula, sweeping a Westhampton movie theater out to sea, toppling the tallest building in Sag Harbor and turning Montauk into an island. In Manhattan, streets three blocks inland from the East River flooded, and the Empire State Building is said to have swayed. By the time the storm finished cutting through New England and into Canada, some 57,000 homes were destroyed, and as many as 800 lives lost.
When present-day risk experts think about the worst-case scenario for the New York region, they base their assumptions on the Great New England.
That wasn’t even a direct hit. “If you take that storm and put it on the Irene track, then you get multiples and multiples of the damages,” said Karen Clark, the chief executive officer of catastrophe risk firm Karen Clark & Co. and the mother of the catastrophe-modeling industry. Read More