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FLOOD OF 1927 November 2, 1970

Posted by thenaturalist in Floods/High Water, Records, Weather History.
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The year 1927 was rainy, October was exceptionally rainy, and by early November the Winooski was ready to flood. Vermont records show a light rain starting at about 9:00 p.m. the night of November 2 and turning into a downpour at about 4:00 a.m. the next morning. By later the morning of November 3, this rainfall was breaking records all over the state.

Two weather systems had converged to drop what one meteorologist estimated to be a cubic mile of solid water lifted from the surface of the Atlantic Ocean onto Vermont. The result was the 1927 flood — the worst natural disaster in Vermont’s history. Rivers all over the state flooded, but the one that did the most damage was the Winooski, which carries water all the way from Cabot down through communities such as Barre, Montpelier, Waterbury, and Richmond to Lake Champlain.

By the time the flooding ended on November 4, 84 Vermonters were dead, 48 of them in the Winooski River Valley. According to the Vermont State Archives, the 1927 flood caused more than $30 million in damage, including $8 million to railroads and $7 million to highways. More than 1200 bridges were damaged or destroyed, and some 690 farms lost 3,000 cows.

The 1927 flood was so devastating that both state and federal governments became involved in local clean-up and repair. Some smaller railroads were eliminated, many dirt roads were blacktopped, and flood-control projects dammed old rivers in new ways. This one natural disaster resulted in political, social, economic, and ecological changes that Vermonters are still trying to find a relationship to.

MORE INFORMATION

Historic Photographs of 1927 Flood
http://www.uvm.edu/perkins/landscape/1927_flood/flood.htm

This treasure trove of historic photographs is the creation of the University of Vermont Department of Geography’s Landscape Change Program. They include 357 photos of the Flood of 1927 among their flood photos, which also include 67 aerial photos of this historic flood.

National Weather Service Report
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/btv/html/27flood.shtml

This National Weather Service report on Vermont’s Flood of 1927 includes an overview of the flood, a chart showing early November rainfall data from 29 towns, and a summary of the flood’s effect on the entire state.

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HURRICANE OF 1938 September 21, 1970

Posted by thenaturalist in Hurricanes, Weather History.
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Many older Vermonters still remember the Hurricane of September 21, 1938. One friend told me her grandmother gathered the family around her, assigned parts, and conducted a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Another friend remembers trees being down on all the roads that led to his school.

According to the National Weather Service, the Hurricane of 1938 was the most powerful and destructive storm to hit New England during the 20th century. And David Ludlum, in discussing Vermont’s weather disasters, ranks this hurricane second only to the Flood of 1927.

This hurricane was even more devastating than it might have been because it arrived without warning. The National Weather Service was quite certain that it would blow out to sea before it made landfall. Only one junior forecaster predicted that it was headed straight toward Long Island and New England.

So when the hurricane made landfall on Long Island in the middle of the afternoon on September 21, it caught people enjoying a warm fall day at the beach. They noticed large whitecaps and saw what they thought was a fog bank rolling toward them, but they had no idea a hurricane was about to hit.

The “fog” turned out to be a huge wave of water — the hurricane’s storm surge. Survivors of that initial surprise thought the worst was over when the sky cleared and the sun came out, but about an hour later the storm came back. The calm within the hurricane’s huge eye had merely deceived them and then dealt a second surprise.

By 6 p.m., the hurricane had roared from Long Island to Vermont. The center blew through Marlboro and followed a track from Weston to Rutland, Brandon, Middlebury, and Vergennes. At about 9 p.m. it left, headed toward Montreal where it damaged one last city before dissipating over Canada.

The Hurricane of 1938 damaged all of New England’s forests, but according to David Ludlum, Vermont’s “suffered most severely.” Hundreds of thousands of trees went down. You can still see evidence of the wind in the remains of the trees or their root mounds. All point to the northwest, indicating a hurricane.

The Hurricane of 1938 remains one of the worst weather disasters ever to strike New England. But if a similar storm struck today, it would do even more damage because so many more people live in its track. Case studies show that a repeat could be the greatest weather disaster in U.S. history — which should keep us Vermonters respectful of the occasional hurricanes that blow our way.

MORE INFORMATION:

American Experience | The Hurricane of ’38 | Maps
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hurricane38/maps/index.html

The Hurricane of 1983 made landfall on September 21. This PBS site includes a map of the hurricane’s route, historic photos, and descriptive text.

The Great Hurricane of 1938 – The Long Island Express
http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/38hurricane/

A professor at the State University of New York at Suffolk produced this comprehensive history of the hurricane New Yorkers know as the Long Island Express.

THE GREAT NEW ENGLAND HURRICANE of 1938 (CAT 3 – September 21)
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/box/hurricane1938.htm

The National Weather Service offers this brief official history of the hurricane.

Many older Vermonters still remember the Hurricane of September 21, 1938. One friend told me her grandmother gathered the family around her, assigned parts, and conducted a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Another friend remembers trees being down on all the roads that led to his school.

According to the National Weather Service, the Hurricane of 1938 was the most powerful and destructive storm to hit New England during the 20th century. And David Ludlum, in discussing Vermont’s weather disasters, ranks this hurricane second only to the Flood of 1927.

This hurricane was even more devastating than it might have been because it arrived without warning. The National Weather Service was quite certain that it would blow out to sea before it made landfall. Only one junior forecaster predicted that it was headed straight toward Long Island and New England.

So when the hurricane made landfall on Long Island in the middle of the afternoon on September 21, it caught people enjoying a warm fall day at the beach. They noticed large whitecaps and saw what they thought was a fog bank rolling toward them, but they had no idea a hurricane was about to hit.

The “fog” turned out to be a huge wave of water — the hurricane’s storm surge. Survivors of that initial surprise thought the worst was over when the sky cleared and the sun came out, but about an hour later the storm came back. The calm within the hurricane’s huge eye had merely deceived them and then dealt a second surprise.

By 6 p.m., the hurricane had roared from Long Island to Vermont. The center blew through Marlboro and followed a track from Weston to Rutland, Brandon, Middlebury, and Vergennes. At about 9 p.m. it left, headed toward Montreal where it damaged one last city before dissipating over Canada.

The Hurricane of 1938 damaged all of New England’s forests, but according to David Ludlum, Vermont’s “suffered most severely.” Hundreds of thousands of trees went down. You can still see evidence of the wind in the remains of the trees or their root mounds. All point to the northwest, indicating a hurricane.

The Hurricane of 1938 remains one of the worst weather disasters ever to strike New England. But if a similar storm struck today, it would do even more damage because so many more people live in its track. Case studies show that a repeat could be the greatest weather disaster in U.S. history — which should keep us Vermonters respectful of the occasional hurricanes that blow our way.

MORE INFORMATION:

American Experience | The Hurricane of ’38 | Maps
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hurricane38/maps/index.html

The Hurricane of 1983 made landfall on September 21. This PBS site includes a map of the hurricane’s route, historic photos, and descriptive text.

The Great Hurricane of 1938 – The Long Island Express
http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/38hurricane/

A professor at the State University of New York at Suffolk produced this comprehensive history of the hurricane New Yorkers know as the Long Island Express.

THE GREAT NEW ENGLAND HURRICANE of 1938 (CAT 3 – September 21)
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/box/hurricane1938.htm

The National Weather Service offers this brief official history of the hurricane.