Sudden Sea by R.A. Scotti

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: It was a wicked stahm, brah. (Note to my editor: This is me mocking a New England accent. Please don’t tell me I have two misspellings.)

Quick synopsis: The story of the 1938 Great New England Hurricane.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Katharine Hepburn was caught up in this hurricane! The family house she stayed in was completely destroyed. (And this dear reader, is the fact which will finally get my Aunt Carol to read my site. Probably just once, though.)

Fun Fact for History Nerds: The hurricane was a “100-year storm.” Most people think it means a storm like this only happens once every hundred years. It actually means any hurricane season there is a 1% chance for this type of storm. Technically, you could have 100-year storms in back to back weeks.

My Take: The 1938 Great New England Hurricane was a monster for a variety of reasons. First, it was a Category 5 which is the highest classification in the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. Second, it targeted New England mostly which is not an area accustomed to strong hurricanes. Third, meteorologists still didn’t have a great handle on forecasting (still don’t, I kid, I kid). Finally, when it made landfall, it did so at high tide which made the storm surge that much worse.

What did it result in? 682 deaths and $306 million in damages. In today’s money, it would have been about $5.1 billion in damages.

Scotti writes a compelling disaster story. She focuses on specific people and places to drive home the overwhelming might of the storm. The time leading up to the storm showcases just how completely unprepared many people were for a storm of that magnitude.

Verdict: Great book for hurricane enthusiasts and even the casual reader. Get it for the summer.

If You Liked This Try:

  • David Laskin, The Children’s Blizzard
  • Daniel Brown, Under a Flaming Sky
  • Matt Lewis, Last Man Off
  • Wallace Akin, The Forgotten Storm
  • Gary Krist, The White Cascade
  • Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman, The Finest Hours
  • Brantley Hargrove, The Man Who Caught the Storm
  • Erik Larson, Isaac’s Storm
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Sudden Sea by R.A. Scotti
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