Climate scientists are saying July is on track to be the warmest month ever recorded on Earth due to record-breaking global temperatures. That means storms like hurricanes can be more intense and destructive when they make landfall.
“That will be such a monumental record broken,” said Sag Harbor native and NBC Meteorologist Chris Gloninger, who will speak about The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 on Friday, July 26, at 5 p.m. at the Annie Cooper Boyd House in Sag Harbor. “This is something that is encompassing the entire planet.”
Mr. Gloninger, who has covered hurricanes including Irene, Lee, Sandy, Irma, Florence and Harvey, called his experience “unique but terrifying.”
As part of the historical society’s “Friday on the Porch” series, he will dive into the details of one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded, why it was so rare, and how the East End of Long Island continues to feel its impact even today.
“It’s a storm that obviously left permanent scars,” Mr. Gloninger said, noting that it damaged three congregations in the Hamptons, including the 100-foot steeple at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor, as well as a church on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation and St. Andrew’s Dune Church on the ocean beach in Southampton Village.
The storm also killed around 700 people and, on Long Island specifically, carved out what became the Shinnecock Inlet, destroyed thousands of homes, downed over 20,000 power lines and uplifted Long Island Rail Road tracks, according to the National Weather Service.
“We haven’t had anything quite as destructive,” Mr. Gloninger said, emphasizing that the storm surge itself was upward of 15 to 20 feet in the New London, Connecticut, area. “To put that in perspective, surge is the most damaging and deadliest part of any hurricane—a foot of moving water can take a full-sized car and float it away. Twenty-five feet of moving water will literally ruin anything in its path.”
Due to inflation, high property values and increased development on the East End and surrounding areas, Mr. Gloninger said a storm of the 1938 hurricane’s magnitude would likely cause more than $30 billion in property damage today, based just on the effects of flooding and storm surge.
“The fact that we haven’t seen it and a lot has changed, not just with climate change but the building growth, it would be a much costlier storm today,” he said.
Join Mr. Gloninger and the Sag Harbor Historical Society for this community event at the Annie Cooper Boyd House at 174 Main Street in Sag Harbor Village. A $20 admission donation is suggested for the event, which includes beer, wine and refreshments.