70th Anniversary of the Great Atlantic hurricane


September_1944_hurricane_rainfall_mapOn September 15, 1944, a major hurricane grazed the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and made landfall on New York’s Long Island.  Most of it fury was spent out to sea where the death toll reached nearly 400 people lost on numerous ships including the USCG cutters Bedloe and Jackson , the lighthouse ship Vineyard Sound, and the Navy minesweeper YMS-409 and destroyer USS Warrington. Thankfully, the heaviest winds remained out-to-sea, and by the time the storm made landfall they had fallen to about 82 mph (132 km/hr). Damage on land was greatest at Cape Hatteras, NC, and along the New Jersey shore, including demolishing hundreds of homes as well as the Atlantic City and Ocean City boardwalks and the Steel and Heinz piers.  An estimated US$100 million in damage was done.

The hurricane was notable for several milestones.  It was the first hurricane to be scanned by radar as it passed an experimental Navy radar station at Lakehurst, NJ and it was flown into by Col. Floyd Wood and Maj. Harry Wexler (later director of research for the U.S. Weather Bureau).  Wexler published his observations in the bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, offering the first scientific observations of a hurricane from an aircraft.

  • Wexler, H .“The Structure of the September 1944 Hurricane When Off Cape Henry, Virginia,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol.26, No.5, May 1945, pp.156-159.
  • Dawes, Jr., Robert A., “The Dragon’s Breath – Hurricane At Sea,” Naval Institute Press, 1996 pp.222