WI: The Long Island Express Directly hits NYC in 1938

The New England Hurricane of 1938, also known as the Long Island Express, was one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit Long Island and New England in its recorded history. It caused $306 million in period damage (and would do over $60 billion today adjusting for differences in inflation, population, and wealth between 1938 and 2019) and killed anywhere between 682 and 800 people. New York City dodged a bullet as it made its Long Island landfall on September 21, 1938 with Category 3 strength (120 mph) just 75 miles to the east of NYC. What if New Yorkers were not lucky here? What implications would this have locally, nationally, and globally?
 
Off the top of my head, this could sever transportation along the eastern seaboard: flooding would not only compromise the various subway tunnels, but would likely do the same to the underground tracks at Penn Station and Grand Central Station. Indeed, the massive rotary converters at Grand Central could be put out of commission, which would bring that entire line to a halt within Manhattan. I'm not sure how densely populated the lower east side was in the day, but if it were anything approaching what it was at the beginning of the 20th century, the loss of life could be much greater. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is also going to get hammered--which won't go well when the the war starts in another three years. And finally...Wall Street. With communications into and out of Manhattan cut, the entire financial system is going to come to a screeching halt. 1938 was a recession year anyhow, so this could work havoc with much of the recovery accomplished thus far. In turn, that could shake the 1938 elections and quite possibly have an impact on whether or not FDR gets a third term.

Yeah, I think it's fairly safe to say that in a worst-case scenario, the butterflies would be about the size of B-52s.
 
1938 was a recession year anyhow, so this could work havoc with much of the recovery accomplished thus far. In turn, that could shake the 1938 elections and quite possibly have an impact on whether or not FDR gets a third term.
The race between Lehman and Dewey was very close, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1938_New_York_state_election

But my initial reaction to the PoD was, Whither Robert Moses?

Not so much his rise to power, but his building plans, and what a catastrophe like this allows him to do with them.
 
I was living in Manhattan during Sandy. I can only imagine what a direct hit from the Express would do. As someone said above, I'd expect economic and communication crippling that would still be under repair when the war breaks out. It probably won't dramatically change the war but I could see problems with lend lease and especially once America actively enters the conflict.

Whither Robert Moses?
I could see him using the chaos post-Express as another means to his rise; he might be appointed repair czar or something similar. The butterflies to Moses' life in particular would be determined by what he decides to do. Does he decide to make the city more resistant to hurricanes, or just use all this building as an excuse for his road ambitions?

Fascinating man. Pity The Power Broker has totally defined him as I find his impact on the city more nuanced.
 
Off the top of my head, this could sever transportation along the eastern seaboard: flooding would not only compromise the various subway tunnels, but would likely do the same to the underground tracks at Penn Station and Grand Central Station. Indeed, the massive rotary converters at Grand Central could be put out of commission, which would bring that entire line to a halt within Manhattan. I'm not sure how densely populated the lower east side was in the day, but if it were anything approaching what it was at the beginning of the 20th century, the loss of life could be much greater. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is also going to get hammered--which won't go well when the the war starts in another three years. And finally...Wall Street. With communications into and out of Manhattan cut, the entire financial system is going to come to a screeching halt. 1938 was a recession year anyhow, so this could work havoc with much of the recovery accomplished thus far. In turn, that could shake the 1938 elections and quite possibly have an impact on whether or not FDR gets a third term.

Yeah, I think it's fairly safe to say that in a worst-case scenario, the butterflies would be about the size of B-52s.
So this could impact American involvement in WW2 if the worst case scenario happens. Interesting.
 
I was living in Manhattan during Sandy. I can only imagine what a direct hit from the Express would do. As someone said above, I'd expect economic and communication crippling that would still be under repair when the war breaks out. It probably won't dramatically change the war but I could see problems with lend lease and especially once America actively enters the conflict.


I could see him using the chaos post-Express as another means to his rise; he might be appointed repair czar or something similar. The butterflies to Moses' life in particular would be determined by what he decides to do. Does he decide to make the city more resistant to hurricanes, or just use all this building as an excuse for his road ambitions?

Fascinating man. Pity The Power Broker has totally defined him as I find his impact on the city more nuanced.
I was in NYC right before Sandy. Was visiting fire island for a couple days and was scheduled to leave like a day or two before it ended up hitting.

Seeing Manhattan on that day was one of the stranger experiences in my life. It was so damned empty. Streets that would normally have hundreds if not thousands had less then a handful. I took a Amtrak out of Penn station and it was so empty it felt like the station had been abandoned.
 
The only consolation is that hurricanes give enough of a warning that tunnels and subways can be evacuated before any floods. Also, skyscrapers won't fall, but people would need to stay away from breakable windows.
 
The present Hyatt Regency next to the Superdome had many of its windows blown out after Katrina. The hotel was substantially revamped afterwards. You may see more damage to highrises than you think. Flooding of building basements and subways by salt water will require more repair/replacement than expected.

Does anyone have a flood map of the entire city of NY?
 
The only consolation is that hurricanes give enough of a warning that tunnels and subways can be evacuated before any floods. Also, skyscrapers won't fall, but people would need to stay away from breakable windows.
Keep in mind that this storm was originally predicted to hit around Miami when it was moving relatively slowly. When it turned north due to the jet stream, it picked up so much speed (velocity of 60 mph) it's almost like a car driving on a highway today. Thus there would at max be 36 hours possible to evacuate the subways and tunnels.
 
Keep in mind that this storm was originally predicted to hit around Miami when it was moving relatively slowly. When it turned north due to the jet stream, it picked up so much speed (velocity of 60 mph) it's almost like a car driving on a highway today. Thus there would at max be 36 hours possible to evacuate the subways and tunnels.
there was not even that. Look at how many people on Long Island or coastal CT that were out doing normal stuff and got caught by the storm by surprise.
 
If Lehman does a poor job handling the hurricane, Thomas Dewey could become governor earlier. This could make him the Republican nominee in 1940, which might butterfly away Eisenhower.
 
That can also be contributed to lack of appropriate technology and fault forecasting.
very true. thing is NYC would get the same warnings. I mean it passed the OBX of NC at 8am on the 21st and made landfall on Long Island at 3:45 that afternoon it was cruising and not much time for warnings at the speed it was going.
 
Top