As we wait for the arrival of Irene we remember the hurricane which took down the steeple of the First Baptist Church, damaged the steeple of the Congregational Church and .
The story of the Great Hurricane of 1938 was shared on Patch in April in a story written by Sam Kurtz:
As I was going through my pictures this week, I came across this photo of the First Baptist Church on West Main Street, and was reminded of the 1938 hurricane which became known as “The Great Hurricane of 1938." Not only did it destroy the church steeple, but it caused other damage throughout the town. There was damage to the Congregational church steeple and the .
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the hurricane began near Africa during the second week of September in 1938, travelled across the Atlantic Ocean and up the east coast, made land fall in Long Island, New York, on Sept. 21. It terminated in southern Canada a day later.
The hurricane moved at a brisk 60 to 70 mph, allowing it to travel from North Carolina to Long Island within an afternoon. Upon reaching landfall in New York, wind speeds were recorded at 121 mph and the water level rose a reported 10 to 12 feet. The Boston Weather Service Forecast Office reports that the Connecticut River reached a depth of 35.4 feet – 19.4 feet above its flood stage.
The storm is said to have killed 564 people, according to NOAA. It injured more than 1,700, and caused $308 million in damage to the New England area – about $4.6 billion in 2009 dollars.
Unconfirmed reports about the hurricane describe 20 foot storm surges, 190 mph gusts of wind, and six inches of rain falling in some parts of Massachusetts.
Damage to houses and marinas was extensive. In all, about 8,900 homes were destroyed and 2,600 boats were sunk.
In the photo above, the First Baptist Church had its steeple destroyed by the storm. Of important concern at the time was the church’s bell which was hanging in that steeple. It was an original Paul Revere bell cast in 1801 and weighed 876 pounds. Fortunately, the bell was not damaged by the storm and remains in the steeple today.