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Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,485 Ratings  ·  164 Reviews
On the morning of September 21, 1938, the swath of coastline from Cape May to Cape Cod was the wealthiest and most populous in the world. By evening, it was a wasteland. Racing up the Atlantic Coast, the storm reached New York and New England ahead of hurricane warnings and struck with such intensity that it registered on seismographs in Alaska. Winds clocked at 186 miles ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 400 pages
Published December 31st 2003 by Thorndike Press (first published 2003)
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Violet You are thinking of Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. GREAT book. I highly recommend it. It is the best account of the Galveston hurricane of 1900. I am…moreYou are thinking of Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. GREAT book. I highly recommend it. It is the best account of the Galveston hurricane of 1900. I am really looking forward to reading about this storm (Sudden Sea) that came much later in 1938. Katharine Hepburn's family home was flooded and destroyed during that storm (while she was in it!).(less)
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Community Reviews

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I don't think anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks 'today is the day I'm going to die'. We might think about the work to be done that day or the food we would like to eat or many other items, but not about death. But then, death can sometimes outrace you.

 photo Sudden Sea - Infograph_zpsebh3wsd9.jpg

The Great Hurricane of 1938 was one of the worst natural catastrophes to hit the East Coast of the United States. Specifically, it aimed for the New England area, which has had massive hurricanes almost every 100 years. This one was a dooz
Dec 03, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in Connecticut, I never thought about hurricane threats until August of 1976 when I was newly married and mother of an eight-month-old baby. Even though we lived 50 miles inland I remember listening to the weather report with great alarm, taping our windows and battening down the hatches, and waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Belle. She turned out to be a non-event.

Nine years later, in September of 1985, Hurricane Gloria arrived. By then we were living in a shoreline town, so we de
Jul 17, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know that we are in an "instant gratification/I want it NOW" world. I don't know if that contributed to me being bored the first half of the book or not. There was just too much build up of information before the hurricane finally hit. I almost felt bad that I was like "Come on, let's get to the hurricane already!" After I read the book, I almost cried. It really touched me that certain people passed away. The build up of meeting the people in the beginning, learning about their lives, and con ...more
David Quinn
For Rhode Islanders this is probably as close to must-read as it gets. The author was a Rhode Islander and made great efforts to give it a strong RI flavor. RI took the brunt of the hurricane and suffered the greatest loss in lives and property damage so that seems about right.

Setting my RI roots aside I thought the book was good and at times very good but overall not better than a solid 3. If I could give partial stars I'd rate it somewhere between 3.25 and 3.5.

The opening chapters are very goo
Jan C
Jul 31, 2009 Jan C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Disaster readers; people who live in hurricane areas
Shelves: disaster
This was great. A lot of science was thrown in here. I found out more about hurricanes than I probably ever wanted to know.

Many personal stories in here. I had previously seen a PBS documentary on the storm. And it told in detail the story of the Moores and their wild ride on the roof of their house ... after it came loose from the house. It is a terrifying story. You don't usually think of hurricanes in Rhode Island or even Long Island.

There is one horrendous story after another. My kind of bo
Jun 28, 2013 Aine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oooh, this was "Can't-put-it-down. Kids,-just-leave-me-ALONE" book. I had heard about the hurricane of 1938 and had even seen the PBS documentary years ago (I'm going watch it again). I read A Hundred Summers recently. That book ends with the Hurricane of 1938; so my interest was piqued. This book was written before Sandy and the author's remarks about a similar storm hitting the northeast are prescient.
May 30, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was completely impressed by this detailed and gripping story of the famous but little known about hurricane (outside of NE, that is) that hit on the eve of the Great Depression..No one saw it coming except a few because it was thought New England was too far north to get hurricanes...Images such a Jamestown school bus full of children being sweep away only to have an 11 yr old boy survivor die 7 years latter during a WW2 battle will never leave me...His little sister's dying words of "Dont get ...more
I had never heard of this hurricane before and, being from the Northeast, I was curious about this. Much of the book was interesting, and I did like the various stories. The organization, however, did not always seem the greatest; I wasn't always sure what the logic was, and I sometimes forgot who the people were the author was referring to because of the skipping around. There were also parts that were redundant or boring, especially in the first quarter of the book. Scotti gets into the scienc ...more
When the hurricane swept into New England on September 21, 1938 there was no warning, no idea that the winds were anything more than a normal “noreaster” common in the fall and winter. Most people would not have known the word hurricane, or realized that powerful hurricane’s had hit the New England coast before. Massively high tides and surges of water obliterated entire beach communities, sweeping houses, cars, and inhabitants away and leaving an empty beach behind. This book was written in 200 ...more
Oct 08, 2013 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In September 1938, a hurricane began forming in the Atlantic and then suddenly accelerated up the Eastern Seaboard to hit New England. 700 people died and thousands of homes were destroyed, but today, almost nobody remembers it because WW2 intervened. Perhaps the most vivid and poignant scene are the teenage girls in bobby socks and skirts giggling as the wind takes hold of their skirts, completely unaware that the 90s teenager will be listening to Eminem and sleeping with half a dozen boys befo ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
A horrifying read. Again, not good timing for me. I live thirty miles from Galveston and hurricane season has just begun. Very hard for me to read.

I've heard all my life about the storm of 1900 that devastated Galveston, but I've never heard anything about this storm. It was the only category five hurricane to hit the mainland of the United States.

The book is well written, with stories from the storm you'd never believe if they were sold as fiction. The photographs were powerful and shocking.

Nov 12, 2011 Bobbi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I got interested in this hurricane after finding reference to it in one of my mother's letters to her mother living in Massachusetts at the time. Luckily, the hurricane bypassed them to the west, going into Vermont and New Hampshire instead, but doing the most damage to Rhode Island. Got a little tedious at times, but it may have been the strongest hurricane to ever hit the US with winds over 200 mph. Because climatology was such a new science, it was dismissed as scientists thought it would tur ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Along the lines of "A Perfect Storm" this well written and researched account of the 1938 unnamed hurrican that struck Long Island and New England is riveting. Photos add to the experience. The storm occurred prior to all our scientific equipment and caught many by surprise (considered to be a cat 3). Even Katherine Hepburn was not spared its wrath.
Dec 05, 2011 Elspeth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This is the type of non-fiction book that makes me want to read more fiction. It seemed to me it was mostly a recitation of facts, with little narrative to pull the reader in. I thought it was boring, and gave up halfway through. I have "Rising Tide" on my To Read list, and hope that will be more engrossing.
Jan 05, 2017 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Riveting and unbelievable, this book packs in story after story of the affected communities in the path of the Great Hurricane of 1938. I didn't rate it higher than three stars because for me it was too heavy on the "introduction" of the story; it wasn't until about halfway through that it became more interesting and less about trying to remember the backstory of every place and person.
Marianne Evans
Jun 10, 2017 Marianne Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely day was ruined by a sudden explosion of wind and water. This shocking story should not be forgotten. Beautifully told by Scotti, she brings personalities back to life, she rebuilds the stately beach homes and she lets the reader ride the wild waves of the great hurricane.
Emily Little
Jun 05, 2017 Emily Little rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like 'natural disaster' stories. This was not as good as 'The Perfect Storm' but similar.
Thomas Paul
Aug 08, 2013 Thomas Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1938, the most powerful hurricane to ever strike the Northeast of the US hit Long Island and New England. The hurricane was completely unpredicted and the death toll reflects that fact. There were 682 dead and 1,754 injured. Every state in New England other than Maine had deaths but no state suffered like Rhode Island with 433 killed. Barrier beaches on Long Island and Rhode Island were swept clean of houses with the only survivors being those who had fled at the first sign of the storm or th ...more
Aug 01, 2014 B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a non-fiction account of the Great Hurricane of 1938, that had a direct hit on Rhode Island, but impacted the entire northeast on and after Sept 21, 1938, with little to zero warning or preparation. The devastation was total and far reaching, many died, the physical shoreline landscape was re-shaped, and many homes and shore yacht clubs etc were destroyed. The storm has been called "one of the most unusual, and from the viewpoint of the meteorologist, one of the most interesting storms i ...more
Normally, we don't think of the New England region as being highly impacted by hurricanes (well, not until Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy). Neither of those, however, were as disastrous as the Great Hurricane of 1938 (prior to our habit of naming hurricanes).

Some damage was due to the infancy of hurricane prediction at that time - more lives would have been saved in today's era - but physical damage would have remained horrendous. Rhode Island was especially hard hit, with at least one tow
Margo Brooks
Nov 19, 2012 Margo Brooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Written before Katrina, Sandy and two powerful tsunamis devastated the world and sent powerful images of the damage the sea can wrought into every home, Sudden Sea still terrifies. The 1938 hurricane that devastated New England came up without warning. On Long Island, a family took advantage of the first sunny day in weeks to throw an end-of-season party for the children. In the middle of the picnic, the seas started to roil and by the time a dozen children were ushered into the house, the sea w ...more
Feb 22, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Sudden Sea is a very nice read for those who have an interest in both US history and natural disasters. This book has a nice flow building towards the hurricane and setting the stage of the times and technologies available in 1938 to track a storm of this magnitude.

This storm made Sandy look fairly tame. It is truly hard to compare the two with primitive gauges to track the severity of the 1938 storm. It is pretty unnerving how much damage Mother Nature can do to coastlines, islands, and wa
Sep 24, 2016 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read and subject. I would have given the book at least a 4* rating. However, Ms. Scotti seems to be sloppy with her facts. In the Prologue alone she makes two glaring errors. First she was incorrect about the date for Howard Hughes takeoff for his around the world flight. She states that he left on July 14 which was actually the date he returned. He took off on July 10. Secondly she states that the DC-3 was carrying 1500 tons of fuel. Impossible. The normal capacity of the DC-3 wa ...more
Aug 01, 2009 Kirsti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsti by: Jan McGill
A really interesting and compelling book. I had no idea the hurricane of 1938 was so devastating and led to so many changes.

"Experienced from below, an extreme hurricane is an explosion of wind and water. . . . Town by town, the Northeast darkened and was silenced. The brilliant inventions of modern life were knocked out. Phones failed. Lights failed. Cars flooded. Buses and trolleys stalled. Trains derailed. Long Island could not alert Connecticut. Connecticut could not alert Rhode Island. Each
Charlie Painter
I thought that overall this book was alright. It had its interesting moments, but for the most part it was kind of a boring documentary, and I wasn't too fond of that. This book mostly talks about the damage that the hurricane did on the whole east coast, but at the same time what it did was follow a few different families letting you know their experience during this time. Since I have a house right where this book is located, that is why i thought it was interesting, but otherwise it was prett ...more
Jun 10, 2015 Garnet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little uneven in the fact that the book opens up with Katherine Hepburn saying goodbye to Howard Hughes and a marriage proposal hanging in the air as he leaves in his plane, (pardon the pun). We next see Hepburn coming home from the beach to her Connecticut house as the wind and waves start to build. She isn't mentioned again. Of course the reader want to know how her home and family fared during this unprecedented and devastating hurricane that surprised New England on September 21, 1938. Als ...more
Sep 22, 2016 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Fabulous. A must-read. I found out about this book through Beatriz Williams's "A Hundred Summers." In "Sudden Sea," R. A. Scotti tells the actual story of the Great Hurricane of 1938 that spanned 600 miles in 12 hours, demolishing most of New England and claiming hundreds of lives. Even more compelling than the event itself, if that is possible, is R. A. Scotti's narrative, a combination of journalism and creative nonfiction, thus drawing readers into the story as if they, too, are swept up in t ...more
Peter Roach
Oct 14, 2011 Peter Roach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nautical
A well written book, with good documentation and eye witness accounts. Up to the time of reading this book, I had never heard of this storm and its impact on Rhode Island. The stunning speed of the storm hitting the inhabitants along the coast with no weather warnings was the main reason for the large loss of life.

Fantastic descriptions of what happened, and of the aftermath. The only criticism I would have would be of some of the minor technical aspects concerning hurricanes in general, this m
Jul 27, 2013 Kimberly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting, even fascinating, story, but the telling is too chaotic. The reader is flipped from scene to scene, city to city, state to state, family to family, back and forth, back and forth. I recognize this fits the atmosphere of the terrible storm, and must replicate how the people subjected to the hurricane felt, but as a reader I find myself sinking deeper and deeper in despair of ever grasping a plot. 3/4 of the way through the book, I finally began to recognize two or three pe ...more
Jerry Smith
New England doesn't come to mind very often when discussing Hurricanes, but one of the most powerful to hit the US was the 1938 Long Island Express. Conditions were perfect to deflect this Hurricane up the coast to New England where it wrought havoc on the unsuspecting states there.

The interest in this book comes largely from the historical context. Forecasting Hurricanes in 1938 was a very different deal from today, as was the preparedness for such storms - at least in this part of the world. T
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