Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Great Storm of 1933 - Part I

This is a shot of Queens Creek way back in the spring on an unusually foggy morning. Here in Mathews, our proximity to the water guarantees a fair share of unusual weather patterns; we're definitely no stranger to bad storms. One in particular, however, stands out as one of the worst on record: the Great Storm of 1933.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the August 1933 storm was "one of the most severe storms that has ever visited the Middle Atlantic coast." This storm--a hurricane-- was "a slow-moving weather mass that dumped ten inches of rain a day for nearly a week even before wind gusts as high as 80 miles per hour and a 7-foot tide arrived."

Holy mackerel. (The Baltimore Sun didn't say that part. It's not really their style, but that's what they wish they could have said.)

Yes, holy mackerel. We've had some doozies around here in my day--Hurricane Isabel in 2003 left us without power for weeks, and Tropical Storm Ernesto caused more damage to our shoreline than Isabel--but ten inches of rain every day for seven days followed by 80 m.p.h. winds is fierce.

From page 67 of the book, "Gwynn's Island Times, News Items from the Mathews Journal, 1905-1937," compiled by Elsa Cooke Verbyla:

"August 24, 1933
Northeast Gale and Tidal Wave Leave Wide Area in State of Devastation

Mathews County has suffered many discouraging setbacks, but never such a disaster as the storm which came raging out of the northeast Tuesday night with hurricane force. Never has there been such a storm here, certainly not in the memory of any living resident of the county.

Accompanying the wind came a tidal wave which swept over more than half of the county. Points never touched by salt water before were flooded to a depth of several feet.

The damage cannot be estimated with any accuracy. Those attempting to figure the destruction which practically every part of the county gazed on Wednesday morning, speak of it in terms of many thousands, even more than a million. Perhaps the most poignantly touching effect is the temporary loss of morale and the utter dejection with which many farmers and fishermen viewed the wreckage and ruin of what in many cases represented practically all they had been able to accumulate around them in a lifetime of hard work and saving. But above all, there was thankfulness, that no lives were lost and that, by some miracle, the raging waters subsided just as many homes were beginning to slip from their foundations."

This storm was well before my parents' time, however my grandmother would have been around. Chesapeake Bay Mother probably has some stories that she heard over the years.

If the two of you anyone reading has any Great Storm stories and would like to share, please leave a comment here or send me an e-mail.

For those of you in other parts of the globe, have you experienced a particularly bad weather event in your lifetime? Was there some story passed down in your family about a devastating event such as the Great Storm?

Stay tuned for Part II later in the week, assuming I remember to write it, and there's a 50-50 chance I won't.


Annie said...

Well, I guess will be many who have stories..

1983 stands out in my memory here, as we were visiting my husband's parents property on the Darling Downs..for a couple of birthday celebrations..(having flown down fromn Darwin, and skidded 5 hours out to the farm in the wet).

There were a party of more than 20 of us camped out there for the rest of the week as we couldn't get back home through the floodwaters. Some bright sparks who wanted to get back to work, got a lift to the next town and caught the train back! Helicopter food drops at the local school were necessary. My husband organized all the spare men on the place to re-roof the old barn. Not one to sit around and watch so many people do nothing for a week on a farm!!

The floods of 1974 in Brisbane were also devasting...your ten inches a day for 10 days reminded me of the buckets of rain that fell from the sky for weeks, before the river finally flooded...worst flood in living memory for most people...previous worst was 1893 when a similar event happened. We were lucky that our house was high on a ridge at the time, and unaffected...there were many not so fortunate.

We had moved to Darwin a few years after the very bad cyclone Tracy that devastated the place on Christmas Day in 1974, I think it was. We did sit out a smaller couple of cyclones there after that, but was sure glad there wasn't another Tracy!

And I am sorta glad the cyclones don't usually come too far down the Queensland coast and worry us too much here. Though it is still theoretically possible!!

wv "dissiti"...a short dissertation?

Annie said...

by the way..

that photo and the one below rank in some of your all time best photos...!!

Pueblo girl said...

I agree with Annie, this photo is absolutely exquisite.

As for weather, when I was in my twenties, England, best known for its drizzle, decided to have a couple of mini hurricanes. The first one wiped out a third of all trees in the country, but I was somewhere safe. The second one found me stranded at work, and I had to walk home through an empty city, with roof tiles and tree branches whizzing through the air. It was weird and I find it hard to believe now that I was so stupid.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

I was a little girl when Agnes caused flooding in central PA. We drove to some of the flood areas and took photos. Will have to dig 'em out and post 'em.

The Good Life in Virginia said...

a beautiful capture.
don't have any storm stories to share though. enjoyed your post.

Mental P Mama said...

We had Gloria in 1985 and Floyd in 1999. I had whitecaps in my front yard with good ol' Floyd. But not in the house, thankfully. Then we moved to higher ground a few years later. I think my red brick house in Mathews County could stand up well ina storm....

Anonymous said...

I am on the phone with Anonymous Mathews Mother who was 1 year old at that time. She obviously has no memories, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have stories....

I'll see if she's willing to share!


Ann Marie said...

The boat that I got named after.. The Ellen Marie.. i will have to dig out the photo of her up in the woods where the '33 storm left her. It still hurts to look at the photo even though they got her out and fixed her up just fine.

Waterman's Wife... granddaughter and greatgrandaughter hehehehehe

foolery said...

That may be my favorite EVER of your photos, Cheeky. Breathtaking.

The Alaska earthquake of 1964 spawned four tsunamis that hit the tiny California coastal town of Crescent City, just below Oregon. My mom's family are from that general area, and I grew up hearing about the people who went down to the bridge to watch the tsunami. The bridge didn't make it, and 11 people died, though local accounts say more died.

At 100 miles inland we don't have tsunamis or typhoons, just floods and wildfires.

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

i am in awe of that shot!

ps lets see in 1933 i was how old?