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The Great Hurricane 1938

2005 non-fiction book by Cherie Burns

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Experience the horror of a category 5 hurricane that no one was expecting

  • Dec 2, 2008
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If you happened to live on eastern Long Island or along the Southern New England coast there seemed to be nothing remarkable about the weather when you arose on September 21, 1938. The forecast did call for some heavy rain later on in the afternoon but there was absolutely no reason to believe that anything out of the ordinary was in store for you that day. What these folks had no way of knowing of course was that a powerful hurricane with winds of up to 160 miles per hour was churning up the eastern coast at a phenomenal 60 miles per hour! By the end of this fateful day many would lose their lives, hundreds more would be injured and the landscape of these areas would be changed forever. In "Great Hurricane: 1938" Cherie Burns transports her readers back to that tragic day and gives them a glimpse of just what is was like to live through such a tumultuous event.
In putting together "Great Hurricane: 1938" Cherie Burns scoured newspaper accounts and interviewed survivors. As a result, we experience the horrors of this storm through the eyes of several different families. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to see family members, neighbors and friends washed away in the fury of this storm. Likewise, the survivors speak of the terror they felt and of the courage they had to muster simply trying to survive during these 3 or 4 hours. Like the old "Cinerama" movie technology of the 1960's, Cherie Burns has the uncanny ability to put you the reader into the picture. There are stories in this book that I will simply never forget.
Being from Rhode Island I have heard about the 1938 Hurricane since I was a kid. I have seen documentaries on the subject, talked to survivors and read Rhode Island native R.A. Storti's splendid "Sudden Sea" which is another marvelous account of this disaster. "Great Hurricane: 1938" is a significant addition to the historical record of this legendary storm.
There was very little to smile about in the aftermath of the Great Hurricane. However, I must make mention of a headline that appeared in the Providence Evening Bulletin a couple of weeks after the storm. During the height of the hurricane Downtown Providence was inundated with 18 feet of water. It took about three weeks of cleanup before the city was ready to reopen for business. In a story about the ramifications of the downtown area being closed the Evening Bulletin noted that most beauty shops had still not reopened. The headline read "WOMEN'S FACES REVERTING TO STATUS ORIGINALLY DESIGNED BY NATURE". I laughed out loud at that one. I think you will find that "Great Hurricane: 1938 is a well written, informative and entertaining book. Recommended.

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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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From Publishers Weekly
Traveling at the unheard of speed of 60 mph and with a span of 1,000 miles, the Great Hurricane of 1938 ravaged Long Island and coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island, killing 700 and literally wiping some communities off the map. As the storm occurred before the advent of hurricane tracking technology, its size was not anticipated, and unaccustomed to such a violent hurricane, some residents eagerly awaited its arrival as an entertainment. In sometimes overheated prose, Burns frequently compares the deadly storm to a cat enraged and ready to pounce as she chronicles everyday lives ripped apart by GH38's power. Burns's liberal use of detailed personal accounts gives the text a gripping intimacy, grace and nuance: of one woman Burns writes, "she told everybody to take off their shoes, in case they were going to have to swim. The sight of the girls' shoes set neatly in a row made Catherine want to weep." Burns at times piles on so many first-person tales that the scope of the storm's impact is somewhat muted. Still, from start to finish, this powerful story of nature's fury and human survival pulls the reader in and doesn't let go.
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ISBN-10: 087113893X
ISBN-13: 978-0871138934
Author: Cherie Burns
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Date Published: July 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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