Great Atlantic Hurricane 1944

 

The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 was first detected on September 8th when a pressure fall and erratic winds were noted around the Windward Islands. Named the Great Atlantic Hurricane by the Miami Weather Bureau, it barreled up the east coast reaching over a 500 mile radius.

The force of the storm destroyed many homes. This house in Avalon was one of three destroyed and though no lives were lost the American Red Cross did have to rescue people from their homes when water came in high.

Before the storm hit New Jersey it pelted towns with heavy rainfall for days. Hundreds of homeowners and holiday makers left the shore towns and sought safety inland. On September 14th the storm hammered New Jersey with great force doing major damage to Long Beach Island, Ocean City, Atlantic City and Cape May. Telephone and utility poles were washed away, cars and trolleys were stranded, and bridges connecting some towns on barrier islands were destroyed.

The State Library has multiple resources to discover more about this storm. In 1944 the New Jersey State Police did a thorough (over 400 pages) town-by-town inventory of the damage the storm caused along with reports submitted by the departments of Agriculture, Institutions and Agencies, Conservation and Development, Highway and the Civilian Defense Council. Many lives were saved due to the Civilian Defense Council (who were a volunteer group set up to protect civilians in case of a war emergency) warning and evacuating residents from danger zones.

The Brigantine Bridge across Abescon Inlet was destroyed.

The Atlantic City area sustained millions of dollars’ worth of damage with all utilities and transportation disrupted. In some places whole sections of the boardwalk, with rails and benches still intact were blown four blocks inland. The Brigantine City Bridge connecting the island to the mainland was destroyed.

While news of the allied advancement in World War II figured prominently in newspapers of the time, there was still room for front page coverage of the impending storm and then its aftermath.

The State Library’s subscription to ProQuest’s Historical Newspapers offers access to the Asbury Evening Press from that time period (1905-1974) and the Plainfield Courier-News (1894-1961) along with other newspapers from the northeast. The Plainfield Courier-News reported that “Plainfield and its vicinity looked today like something a battalion of paratroopers had worked over” and that the estimated damage in total was over 20 million dollars.

Accessing these collections

A good overview of the storm can be found in Great Storms of the Jersey Shore by Larry Savadove and Margaret Thomas Buchholz which is available for in-person or interlibrary loan (call number J551.55 S263)

Many photographs can be freely viewed in our 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane collection.

Our collection of historical newspapers can be accessed remotely by New Jersey state employees and by anyone within the State Library.  Additional digitized content can be located using our guide to New Jersey Digitized Historic Newspapers.

The New Jersey State Police town-by-town inventory of storm damage is called the State of New Jersey Report of Hurricane Damage September 14, 1944 (call number 974.90 H966 1944) and can be viewed in the library.