I admit it up front, I am a weather freak. Nothing makes me happier than to
sit in front of the Weather Channel and watch a severe storm front develop
into a potential monster hurricane. Išve even lived through a few myself,
though I rarely see any weather at all now in my Southern California locale.
But you donšt have to love the weather or ache for a good storm to find
Sudden Sea an awesome read. This fascinating
page-turner documents in full, glorious detail every minute leading up to
what history has come to know as The Great Hurricane of '38, a devastating
monster of a storm that rolled up and into the unsuspecting Northeast coast
with a fury and speed even the most weathered forecasters and storm-watchers
weren't prepared for.
Using the stories of dozens of eyewitnesses as well as documented reports
from local newspapers, libraries and archives, author and former journalist
R.A. Scotti weaves a thrilling, chilling tale of a day that would go down in
infamy for thousands of Northeasterners September 21, 1938. Most folks
along the Atlantic seaboard woke up to another morning of sharply clear
skies and calm seas, but soon people were sensing a disturbance in the air
and the water, reporting unusual sky coloration, a bizarre and
brain-piercing "echo" off the waters, unseasonal high swells, and other such
phenomena that indicated something big -- really big -- was moving quickly
toward their shores. Within hours, lives were turned upside down, along
with most of the coastal lands along Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island
and Massachusetts, as the hurricane bore down with a fury no one had ever
witnessed or dared imagine before.
The author uses incredible detail to describe the people, places and things
affected by this monster hurricane, and at times you feel like you are
reading a thriller or horror novel. You can't stop turning the pages as
Scotti's urgent writing style builds to an emotional peak that leaves you
breathless but begging for more. The storm is described in full detail from
its quiet, unassuming origin miles out in the Atlantic through its path
of destruction toward Florida and ultimately up the Northeast where it
struck land -- and beyond to its final demise as it moved into Canada and
petered out. All the while we are introduced to people we come to care
about, root for and grieve for as they deal with the loss and fear the
mighty winds and ruthless storm surges bring. Hundreds were killed in this
storm, and thousands became homeless in what history now describes as the
fastest hurricane on record, and one of the five most devastating to ever
strike the mainland United States.
I had no idea such a massive and deadly storm as this occurred in 1938.
What a history lesson this book is, not just in the development of weather
forecasting and the U.S. Weather Services, but also regarding the mood of a
nation just out of one great tragedy, the Depression, and about to enter an
even darker period as Hitler began his rise to power. Sandwiched between
these two powerful moments in our historical timetable, this hurricane grew
from a misplaced wind off of Cape Verde, Africa, to the unthinkable - a
tropical cyclone of immense proportions that hit a part of the world once
thought immune to such horrific forces.
Sudden Sea includes several maps to give the reader a real sense of the
location the storm tracked, and there are also sixteen pages of black and white
photographs that give the full impact of the loss, the wreckage, the force
and the fury of this brutal storm.
It is the suffering of the victims and witnesses recounted in this book that
truly grabs the reader by the heart, but it is the birth and empowerment of
a force of nature that still defies our understanding and our control that
refuses to let the heart go. Sudden Sea is both a gut-wrenching chronicle
of a deadly storm and na historical epic of struggle, surrender and courage.
And on both levels, it succeeds mightily.