New York’s History of Being Buffeted, Starting in 1821






Stephen Fybish, a 74-year-old weather historian from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, celebrated his second birthday in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Sept. 20, 1938, the day before the great hurricane struck New York City. Nonetheless, his mother often proudly reminded him, everybody who was invited made it to his party.

The 1938 storm, which claimed 600 lives in the Northeast, devastated eastern Long Island, but spared much of the city, which, Mr. Fybish recalled, was soaked by about five inches of rain over two days and whipped by 60 m.p.h. winds.

Like other hurricanes, even that storm paled in comparison to the fiercest gale ever recorded, the one that that slammed the city head-on near what is now Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 3, 1821 — before Mr. Fybish’s time, he acknowledges. The tide rose 13 feet and the Hudson and East Rivers converged in lower Manhattan....



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