255 “De ja WHEW!”

By Hetty Gray

# 255

September 17, 2018

“Deja WHEW!”

Let’s see, this is 2018. That means that 1938 was 80 years ago. In terms of history, 1938 saw a world that would change dramatically with the rising of The Third Reich and its leader, Adolf Hitler. The population of the United States was 129.82. (As of September 1, 2018, it stands as 328.48 million.)
The workforce was more “hands on” than “eyes on” (as in computer screens and cell phones, that is). People worked for a living and they worked hard.

Social issues of the day were understandable given that the recent Great Depression severely affected Americans coast to coast. Memories were fresh and the people desperately tried to rebuild the life they considered normal before “The Crash.” Rebuilding lives was the priority of the first order in1938.

Man can do wonderful things. Man can invent devices to make life easier, devise transportation modes to move us from place to place in comfort and with ever-greater speeds. Man can literally move mountains. No fantasy either…. Our determined forebears cut through The Cumberland Gap and open a way west. To be frank, it is unlikely that many of the major projects undertaken more than a hundred years ago could have been accomplished lately, given the government stranglehold on inventiveness and the business community instituted in the not-so-distant past. Thank goodness the current administration moved quickly to eliminate burdensome regulations, loosing industry to once again regain our firm foothold in the world economy.

With that background, let’s just take a look at what man cannot do. Man cannot affect or control the weather to any measurable degree. Oh, there are instances of cloud seeding; but aside from that, man remains at the mercy of a notable lady, Mother Nature. Not a new phenomena, either….

This was certainly the case in 1938, again eighty years ago. For many of us, the name Katherine Hepburn is instantly known. Linked with fellow actor and noted co-star Spencer Tracy, she played very challenging movie roles and made a lasting impact on moviegoers. The younger set would be wise to do a little research on this remarkable woman who swam in the Atlantic Ocean until she was well into her eighth decade. Sturdy New England stock is a mild way to describe her. Her life was colorful and unconventional for the time, but she was her own woman long before the onslaught of women’s liberation.
Let’s take a look at the shocking weather that battered New England 80 years ago. (Note the timing correlation to this year.)

The Smithsonian Institution:

A storm formed in the eastern Atlantic near the Cape Verde Islands on September 4, 1938, and headed west. After 12 days, before it could reach the Bahamas, it turned northward, skimming the East Coast of the United States and picking up energy from the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. On September 21, it crashed into Long Island and continued its way north at a speed of 60 miles per hour, with the eye of the storm passing over New Haven, Connecticut. It didn’t dissipate until it reached Canada.

The winds were strong enough that modern scientists place the storm in Category 3 of the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The Blue Hill Observatory outside Boston measured sustained winds of 121 miles per hour and gusts as strong as 186 miles per hour. The winds blew down power lines, trees and crops and blew roofs off houses. Some downed power lines set off fires in Connecticut.
But it was the storm surge that caused the most damage. The storm came ashore at the time of the high tide, which added to the surge of water being pushed ahead by the hurricane. The water rose 14 to 18 feet along much of the Connecticut coast, and 18 to 25 feet from New London, Connecticut to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Seaside homes all along Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island were submerged under 12 to 15 feet of water, and Providence, Rhode Island was inundated with 20 feet. Whole communities were swept out to sea.
One of the homes that washed away was Katharine Hepburn’s beach house in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Heed Hepburn’s description.
“It was something devastating—and unreal—like the beginning of the world—or the end of it—and I slogged or sloshed, crawled through ditches and hung on to keep going somehow—got drenched and bruised and scratched—completely bedraggled—finally got to where there was a working phone and called Dad. The minute he heard my voice he said, ‘how’s your mother?’—And I said—I mean I shouted—the storm was screaming so—’She’s all right. All right, Dad! But listen, the house—it’s gone—blown away into the sea!’ And he said, ‘I don’t suppose you had the brains enough to through a match into it before it went, did you? It’s insured against fire, but not against blowing away!— and how are you?’”
You can do a little web surfing and come up with a picture of Hepburn sitting in a bathtub among the scattered remnants strewn across the ravished lawn of Fenwick, her family home swept away by the storm. She had quite a sense of humor. She rebuilt the home and lived in it until her death at the age of 96.
The hurricane, one of the most destructive to ever hit New England, was followed by massive river flooding as the water dumped by the storm—10 to 17 inches fell on the Connecticut River basin—returned to the sea. By the time the devastation was over, 564 people were dead and more than 1,700 injured, 8,900 homes were completely gone as were 2,600 boats. Trees and buildings damaged by the storm could still be seen by the 1950s.
In the days and weeks following the storm, the federal government sent thousands of men from the Works Progress Administration to assist with the search for survivors and the huge effort to clear away the destruction. And in all the news coverage I read, there was no mention of climate change or the specter of global warming.
Remember please that 1980 saw those same people warning of a “coming ice age.” When that didn’t work, they morphed the message into global warming and the race was on — what race? — the race for those leading the charge (poor word considering the massive amounts of money they earn by peddling this garbage).
Turn back the clock three years. What about 1935? It saw another powerful storm. The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was so powerful that it sand-blasted clothing off of people who got caught in its vicious winds, destroyed nearly every structure in the Upper Keys and killed about 500 victims. The Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper describes it.
“People were picked up and thrown around like rag dolls,” said Brad Bertelli, curator of the Keys History & Discovery Center in Islamorada. “Bodies were blown all the way across Florida Bay to Cape Sable.”
This was the most intense Category 5 system ever to strike the U.S. coastline. It was stronger than Hurricane Camille, which clobbered Mississippi in August 1969, as well as Hurricane Andrew, which devastated south Miami-Dade County in August 1992 – both being the only other Category 5 storms in recorded history to hit the United States.
When it barreled across the Upper Keys on September 2, 1935, the Labor Day hurricane was packing sustained winds of 185 mph, the same destructive power as an EF4 tornado.
“It was tightly wound, like Andrew, with a swath of destruction about 40 miles wide,” Bertelli said. “Most of the damage was between Tavernier and Duck Key.” The system produced a storm surge of 18 to 20 feet above sea level, knocking down trees and buildings on Matecumbe, Islamorada and other nearby Keys. It also destroyed Henry Flagler’s railroad, which connected Key West to the mainland.
“That was the last day Henry Flagler’s train made the trip from Miami to
Key West,” Bertelli said. Many of the victims drowned when they were
swept by towering waves into either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic.
Among those who perished were 259 World War I veterans, who had
been building the Overseas Highway and were living in federal
rehabilitation camps.
A train had been dispatched to rescue them from the storm, but it arrived too late and was swept off its tracks by the storm surge. Of some consolation, Bertelli said, “none of the people on the train died.”
At the time, only about 600 to 700 people were living in the Upper Keys or the death toll would have been much higher, he said.
After roaring through the Keys, the hurricane curved north, paralleled Florida’s west coast and made a second landfall near Cedar Key as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 4.
At the time, only about 600 to 700 people were living in the Upper Keys or the death toll would have been much higher, he said. After roaring through the Keys, the hurricane curved north, paralleled Florida’s west coast and made a second landfall near Cedar Key as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 4.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, legendary author Ernest Hemingway traveled to the Keys to help with the recovery. He ended up writing an angry article entitled, “Who Killed the Vets?” for New Masses magazine.
In a letter to his editor, Max Perkins, Hemingway wrote, “We made five trips with provisions for survivors to different places but nothing but dead men to eat the grub.”
While it took years for the Keys to fully recover, residents started rebuilding almost immediately, and some area schools reopened in 1936, Bertelli said.
“Residents of that area were a hardy bunch,” he said.
The storm highlighted the need to evacuate the Keys well in advance of a threatening storm, because the two-lane highway – the only way in and out of the island chain – easily jams. A year after the hurricane, the 17-foot-tall Florida Keys Memorial was built on Upper Matecumbe Key in memory of the storm victims.
Don’t be taken in by the hype of elites who travel about in fuel-guzzling private jets telling you that you need to drive an electric car and adjust your lifestyle in bizarre ways.
I doubt if anyone in 1906, 1935 and 1938 attributed all the storm damage and loss of life to anything but the weather. I often joke with friends and say that the word needs a little adjusting. It should be “whether!”
Keep those in North and South Carolina in your prayers. They are at the mercy of Mother Nature and she is less than kind when handing out major storms. There will be fatalities, but no numbers rivaling those of past years. Modern forecasting, “hurricane hunter” planes and widespread access to weather reports coupled with ample warnings saves more lives than we can imagine. Yet, earth rules when it comes to catastrophes.
All it takes is for one major volcano to erupt violently and the weather around the planet could take a downturn that would be the projection that the global warming nuts seek to blame on the internal combustion engine and industry. Let’s hope Mount Rainier and Yellowstone stay quiet for centuries. We live in a world with a fiery core spawning volcanoes that could spell the end of the life as we know it.
Back to hurricanes….
Deja Few? Yes. Thankfully, hurricanes are few. It’s just that when hurricanes strike, damage lasts for decades..

Please consider one fact. Weather is cyclical. Otherwise no explanation exists for the icy cold that gripped Europe and North America — a cold that blanketed Europe in smoke. Why? People were freezing, desperate. They cut down every available tree to heat their homes. According to Resources.org “The Little Ice Age” spanned from about 1300 to 1870 during which Europe and North America were subjected to much colder winters than during the 20th century. The period can be divided in two phases, the first beginning around 1300 and continuing until the late 1400s.
So, we haven’t seen a cold wave or anything like this since just after the Civil War. Will it happen again? Who knows? Other than being prepared for anything, there is nothing we can do.
And as for storms such as Florence, she won’t be the last. She may not be the worst. Even one life is too much to lose, but compare the current fatalities to those at a time when warnings were all but nonexistent and you will realize how much we owe contemporary meteorologists. And as for those in the path of these storms? They evacuate or ride the storms out. Grim as they are, these are their own two choices.
Really…. Don’t blame man. Man is, and always has been, at the mercy of the weather.
Think about it.

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