Cover image for Sudden sea : the Great Hurricane of 1938
Sudden sea : the Great Hurricane of 1938
Scotti, R. A.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown and Co., [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 279 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.8 11.0 76714.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QC945 .S475 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



It was the Perfect Storm. But instead of raging far out in the Atlantic, the Great Hurricane of 1938 left a wake of death and destruction across seven states. It battered J. P. Morgan's Long Island estate, wiped out beach communities from Watch Hill to Newport, flooded the Connecticut Valley, and flattened Vermont's prized maples.Traveling at record speeds, the storm raced up the Atlantic Coast, reaching New York and New England ahead of hurricane warnings and striking with such ferocity that seismographs in Alaska picked up the impact. Winds, clocked at 186 mph, stripped cars of their paint. Walls of water 50 feet high swept homes and entire families out to sea. Sandwiched between the Great Depression and World War II, the storm had a profound impact upon a generation. 'The day of the biggest wind has just passed,' the newswires read the next day, 'and a great part of the most picturesque America, as old as the Pilgrims, has gone beyond recall or replacement.' Drawing upon newspaper accounts, the personal testimony of survivors, forecasters, and archival footage, SUDDEN SEA recounts that terrifying day in gripping detail. Scotti describes the unlikely alignment of meteorological conditions that conspired to bring a tropical cyclone to the Northeast. A masterful storyteller, Scotti follows the trajectory of that awful wind-and recovers for posterity the lost stories of those whose lives, families, and communities were destroyed by the Hurricane of 1938.

Author Notes

R. A. Scotti, a former journalist for the Providence Journal-Bulletin and Newark Star-Ledger, is the author of five novels. A native Rhode Islander, Scotti grew up hearing stories of 1938, including one of an aunt who returned from work at the phone company in a rowboat and another about her grandmother's best friend, who stepped out onto the porch of her house and was never seen again. She summers at Narragansett Pier, Weekapaug, and Jamestown and lives the rest of the year in New York City

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Former journalist and mystery novelist Scotti successfully applies her skills in both genres to this detailed retelling of the 1938 hurricane that ripped across seven Northeastern states and killed 682 people, "the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history-worse than the San Francisco earthquake, the Chicago fire, or any Mississippi flood." Although the enormity of the destruction has been written about before, Scotti focuses on "a few experiences that seem representative of many more" through interviews with hurricane survivors, their families and friends, as well as previously published recollections by survivors, including the late Katharine Hepburn. Scotti's detailed look at the general extent of the hurricane's destruction adds poignancy to individual stories, such as those of Joseph Matoes, who sees his children swept away from their school bus as they are battered by huge waves; Lillian Tetlow and Jack Kinney, two sweethearts who survive a storm that destroys Napatree, R.I., and who later marry; and Charles Pierce, a "green and unsure" junior forecaster for a woefully underprepared U.S. Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) who stands against his experienced superiors as the only forecaster to recognize the danger of the hurricane. Scotti also skillfully presents the details of a hurricane, although she reminds us that "after decades of study and with all the technological tools of the trade... we still cannot predict a hurricane more than twenty-four hours in advance." (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologue: Gone with the Windp. 3
1 A Perfect Dayp. 7
2 The Way It Wasp. 25
3 A Shift in the Windp. 33
4 Hurricane Watchp. 37
5 At Seap. 51
6 All Aboardp. 61
7 A Bright Young Manp. 71
8 Upside Down, Inside Outp. 83
9 Battening the Hatchesp. 87
10 A One-Hundred-Year Stormp. 93
11 How Do You Lose a Hurricane?p. 99
12 The Long Island Expressp. 105
13 Crossing the Soundp. 119
14 The Atlantic Ocean Bound Out of Bedp. 125
15 The Dangerous Right Semicirclep. 137
16 Providencep. 161
17 The Tempestp. 171
18 Cast Adriftp. 189
19 All Quietp. 203
20 The Reckoningp. 209
21 The Last of the Old New England Summersp. 225
Afterwordp. 235
Appendix A Nickel for Your Storyp. 239
Author's Acknowledgmentsp. 245
Sources and Chapter Notesp. 247
Selected Bibliographyp. 257
Indexp. 265