Hurricane of 1938

How did the worst hurricane in New England’s history create jobs?

On September 21st, 1938, a hurricane(a storm with a violent wind, in particular a tropical cyclone that starts in the Caribbean) hit New England. Many New Englanders were not ready for the disaster. Records show that there were only two other hurricanes in New England. The first was in 1635 and the second in 1815. There were many other hurricanes in New England before that. But we don’t have records of storms pre-European contact(The period before European settlers arrived in New England in 1620). The 1938 hurricane caused damage in Vermont and every other New England state.

The hurricane brought heavy rain to Vermont and other New England states. Vermont was lucky compared to other states. The hurricane mostly affected the lower part of Vermont. But the hurricane also caused flooding throughout the state. A lot of roads were washed out during the hurricane. Trees were ripped out from their roots. Many Vermonters were forced to evacuate(remove from danger to a safe place) their homes until the storm passed.

In the 1930s, the world went through the Great Depression(a long downturn in the world economy, starting in 1929). Many people lost their jobs. There was not enough food to feed everyone. The US government needed a plan to help Americans. The US government created the WPA(the Works Progress Administration) in 1935. The WPA helped with many projects across America. It worked closely with state governments to figure out projects. The WPA was different from other Great Depression projects. It employed both men and women. The WPA fixed highways, streets, and bridges. After the hurricane, there was a lot of work to do. The storm damaged many roads throughout the state. The WPA helped fix Vermont’s roads and cleared timber(wood used in building or carpentry) from forests.

The 1938 hurricane was a disaster(a sudden event that causes great damage or loss of life) that hurt many New Englanders. Over 600 people died across 7 states. The storm destroyed many homes and businesses in Vermont. The WPA helped with the recovery(a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength) after the disaster. Many Vermonters worked in the WPA after they lost their jobs. Without the WPA, Vermont’s recovery would have taken much longer. Eventually, the WPA and other Great Depression work projects were shut down. But today, we can still see the effect these projects had on Vermont.

Thinking About History

Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.

The 1938 hurricane caused damage across New England at a time when there weren’t many jobs. Why is it important that work programs were used to clean up after the storm?

Have you ever been through a hurricane? If so, how did you feel during the storm?

Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.

Vermont Historical Society. "Hurricane of 1938." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed September 28, 2023.

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