Hurricane of ‘38

Barrington had two Yacht Clubs before September 21, 1938 (the date recorded for the first Hurricane to visit this area since 1815). The Bay Spring Yacht Club withstood the pounding tide for only 15 minutes before the structure collapsed and one of the landmarks of West Barrington’s summer colony was lost along with 40 homes.

September 21, 1938 brought the fifth consecutive day of rain. By noon a strong wind was blowing and by 3:30 the wind was at gale force ,trees were being blown down and a tidal wave formed ahead of this fast moving storm. The storm’s course was over Long Island and up the Connecticut River Valley, putting us on the deadly Southeast side of the storm. People having no prior Hurricane experience and with no Weather Bureau warning had no idea what was happening to them that day.It is recorded that damage to yachts and crafts in the Barrington Yacht Club Basin was most severe.

The basin felt the full force of the Tidal Wave which was forced by the wind into our small confined area. Boats were carried everywhere. The large power cruiser DOTNYE owned by Past Commodore LaVerne Matthews was tossed over the rail of the Barrington Bridge at the Police Station end and blocked traffic for days. Surrounding the DOTNYE were boats of all types; on the bridge, in the Police Station yard and on Mathewson Road. Many boats were wrecked when the torrent weather swept them against the cement foundations of the Barrington and Warren Bridges at an estimated 50 miles per hour.

Providence experienced a tide 13.02 feet above mean high tide. A small bronze plaque on the right side of the Club’s fireplace shows the height of water during the storm to be over four feet inside the building. The Club at that time was only two years old. Damage was heavy but the building withstood the tide. Other Barrington landmarks which were altered by the storm was the White Church which lost its steeple and the Mathewson Boathouse which was washed off its foundation.

Information for this article came from two excellent sources given to the Club’s Historical Collection. 1) Bristol County Hurricane Album, published by Warren Printing and Publishing Company – given by Life Member and Past Commodore Russell Field. 2) The Complete Historical Record of New England’s Sticken Area, September 21st, 1938, published by the Standard-Times of New Bedford and given by Howard Kestenberg.

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