Maria’s destruction reminds 95-year-old of the Great Hurricane of ‘38

Maria’s destruction reminds 95-year-old of the Great Hurricane of ‘38

The images of Hurricane Maria’s destruction is bringing back a flood of memories for an East End 95-year-old who lived through the great hurricane of 1938 that devastated Long Island.
Lois Davis had just turned 16 in September 1938 when the hurricane, an estimated Category 3 storm, made a direct hit on the South Fork. She was sitting in class at Westhampton Beach High School when that normal day turned into a nightmare.
“We heard stones,” she says. “They were being blown from the ground up to the second floor and cracking the window in our classroom.”
Davis made it safely back to her home in Remsenburg. She remembers her mom speaking by phone to her father, who was in the city that day.

"He didn't ask about the children. He asked about the two oak trees in front of the house, which irritated my mother,” she says.

Seawater poured into downtown stores and Main Street in Westhampton Beach was completely flooded.
“There was looting,” Davis recalls. “They had guards on all the streets that led to Westhampton.”
One memory that still shakes Davis: the country club was turned into a morgue.
“That’s where you went to look for somebody who was missing,” she says. “And some people never found the person they were looking for … never found a body.”
More than 50 people were killed just on Long Island, and more than 700 people died in the Northeast as the storm made its way from Long Island, across New England and up to the Canadian border. Many survivors were left without power or water.
“There was a hand pump at the farm next door,” remembers Davis. “People lined up to get a pail of water to take home to drink.”

Davis says it took a while, but that life slowly returned to normal – and she acknowledges her family was fortunate.

“Even one of the oak trees is still standing,” she says.