Similar Summers Shared By Irene And The 1938 Hurricane

Both Storms Threaten Northeast And New England After Record Summer Heat And Rains

Perhaps they are just coincidences. However, the similarities between Hurricane Irene and the Long Island Express Hurricane of 1938 shouldn’t be taken lightly. A number of years ago, I read the book, Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti. I also wrote a review about it.

With the approach of Hurricane Irene, I began to think back to reading this book because of the type of weather we’ve had here in the Northeast this summer. This summer has been one of extreme heat and humidity as well as torrential rains. In July, South Plainfield had an average temperature of nearly 78.5 degrees. The high temperature for the month was set on July 22nd at 104 degrees with Newark reaching 108 degrees, the warmest in the United States that day. Heat index values were as high as 121 here in Northwestern Middlesex County while Atlantic City reached 122 degrees.

The record temperatures on July 22nd were at the peak of the most severe heat wave in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in over 15 years. Temperatures were at or above 90 degrees for nine straight days. For the month of July, temperatures were at or above 90 degrees some 17 times. Then, in the month of August, temperatures cooled, but the rains came in earnest. So far this month, there has been 15 days of measurable rain here in Northwestern Middlesex County. Fourteen of those days came within the first 21 days of the month.

Heavy rains fell on August 14th (4.15 inches) and August 19th (1.7 inches). Other areas received heavy rains on August 15th and August 21st as well. So far this month, there has been 10.28 inches of rain here in South Plainfield with other areas around the Garden State receiving more. This summer has capped off an unusual stretch of extreme weather for New Jersey, and many other parts of the Northeast this past year. Starting with tornadoes in Staten Island and Brooklyn in late September 2010, there have been a number of significant weather events in the region over the last 12 months.

Similarly, the summer of 1938 had torrential rains and scorching temperatures. However, they rains came in June and July followed by record heat in August. In August 1938, there were 27 days where the high temperature was warmer than normal. In a nutshell, the weather during the summer of 1938 was “miserable” according to Scotti’s book. Another difference between the two storm scenarios was that the 1938 hurricane came up the Eastern Seaboard toward the end of September. Up to that point though, there had been torrential rains in the Northeast that month.

Prior to the arrival of the Long Island Express, it had rained for four days straight with rainfall amounts each day ranging from 1.5 to 5.5 inches depending on where you were. This forced many of the rivers to swell to flood stage. The similarities between these two storms are quite striking.