Not Waiting for Another ’38 Hurricane: Preparing Connecticut and Long Island’s Coasts Now

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Act, Extreme weather, Learn

As a native of Connecticut, I’ve heard the stories of the 1938 hurricane that are still passed down the generations – how my mother (only a child at the time) and her family cowered in their farmhouse dining room as my grandfather went out to check on the cows and part of the barn roof flew off (luckily he was unscathed).

My mother remembers her grandmother backing her chair up against the rattling door to keep it from blowing open. And when my mother said she was too scared to read the Bible she was clutching, her grandmother told her: “You should never be too scared to read the Bible.”

That hurricane, dubbed the Long Island Express, killed about 600 people and destroyed nearly 9,000 homes. Planners, scientists and state officials know it is only a matter of time before it happens again – when another hurricane blows up the Atlantic Coast and targets Long Island, and New England beyond it – squarely in its crosshairs.

With continued sea level rise and increased intensity of storms predicted with climate change, coastal preparedness is an ongoing issue in Connecticut, where housing development punctuates the shore.

People who live along Connecticut’s coast on Long Island Sound are already noticing changes: warmer ocean water, more frequent flooding of shoreline trails and roads, and more frequent heavy rainstorms.  Check out the video above to hear more.

Now a new planning tool is helping communities in Connecticut and New York to better prepare for a changing coast.

Using The Nature Conservancy’s newly expanded and improved Coastal Resilience Tool, decision-makers can explore different flooding scenarios with sea level rise and storm surge to learn how the dynamic ocean may affect their community in coming years and through the storms of the future. (To check out the maps – including existing infrastructure, economic, social and ecological assets – and different sea level rise scenarios over the coming century, click on Geographies and Long Island Sound then “Future Scenario Map”. There are also links for Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Virgin Islands.)

So, for example, how can critical infrastructure, like roads, rail lines and schools, be protected from surging ocean waters following a hurricane?

How should communities deal with eroding beaches and shifting shorelines?

And what lands should be protected from development to let wetlands – important for fisheries and shorebirds – adapt and migrate inland as seas rise?

Our old-timers might agree: better to think about these questions before the next big hurricane.

Lisa Hayden is a blogger and feature writer for The Nature Conservancy

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Comments (2)

  • JC Vegetarian Group


    Here in Jersey City NJ, the rains are more frequent, more intense, and the rates at which the rains fall have increased noticeably in just the past few years. We track rain fall rates regularly during storms, and have seen rates of 1″ an hour (or more) becoming common, whereas those rates were unusual in the past. In addition, episodes of flooding have also become more frequent.


  • Kirt Griffin


    The estimates provided by the GISS of something in the nature of 6ft SLR by 2100 is untenable. The documents projecting SLR in that range are based on faulty science particularly in the area of glacial retreat. A more accurate estimate would be a maximum of 8.5″ but that wouldn’t alarm anyone. This group wants to buy up the shoreline, tax your energy until you can’t afford it and spend $Billions on climate solutions that can’t work. The weather that we have been having as mentioned in the videos was all predicted months in advance using solar-lunal techniques. It is common for this to happen when coming out of a long solar minimum as we are having. The Sun controls our weather, climate and yes, sea level. There will be a presentation at the Guilford Community Center on May 17 at 7pm to explain all this. It could open your eyes. All are welcome. Especially Unk. Bet this doesn’t pass moderation. Is the Nature Conservancy open to counter viewpoints?


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