On September 21, 1938, a hurricane struck New England. Great property damage resulted from the high winds, and severe floods, but especially from the storm tide, which, topped by a hurricane surf, caused greater loss of life and more coastal damage than had ever before been experienced on the North Atlantic seaboard.
At the Blue Hill Observatory, Milton, Massachusetts, the maximum 5-minute velocity was 121 miles per hour and for shorter intervals it was in excess of 150 miles per hour. The storm tide at Providence, Rhode Island, was 13 feet 9 inches above mean high tide. This exceeded the previous record of September 23, 1815, by 1 foot 11¾ inches.
The geologic changes to the Rhode Island coast which resulted from the hurricane of September 21, 1938, are: (1) Formation of inlets eroded through the beaches, (2) widening of the beaches by deposition of material on their bayward sides, (3) erosion of the ocean side of the beaches, (4) erosion of the fore dunes, (5) erosion of headlands and cliffs, (6) deposition of beach deposits in bays and marshes in back of the beaches, and (7) conversion of fresh-water ponds into salt-water bays.
Since the hurricane some of the new inlets have been closed, and others have been partially filled. There seems to be no question but that in a few years the beaches will be in essentially the same condition as they were prior to the hurricane.