"On the afternoon of September 21, 1938, a hurricane of subtropical origin whirled out of the Atlantic Ocean and struck the northeast shore of the United States at Long Island. It advanced with ever-increasing speed and wind velocities - and Rhode Island stood directly in the path of its dangerous semi-circle. Mounting winds and a blinding torrent of rain heralded this fury in mid-afternoon. Before night fell, 312 men, women and children were dead and missing in this State and on the immediately adjacent shores of Massachusetts summer resorts; One hundred million dollars worth of damage had been wrought from Westerly to Sakonnet Point and inland; entire beach communities had been wiped from the map, the State's contour was changed, beaches had been obliterated, thousands of trees and utility poles felled, yacht fleets smashed, sunk and flung up hundreds of feet beyond high water, and the streets of downtown Providence buried to a depth of 10 feet and more beneath the waters of the Bay. Never in history had such a disaster visited these shores." From the booklet, The Great Hurricane and Tidal Wave of Rhode Island
A total of 700 people died, 63,000 were left homeless and the adjusted cost as of 1990 would be over $6 billion dollars of damage. Many fires ensued, set off by power lines. A huge conflagration occurred in Peterborough, New Hampshire, so the effects of this storm were felt from the Cape Verde Islands through New England. Link: More Photos and Info
Other Hurricanes affecting Rhode Island and Massachusetts: Hurricane Carol 1969
June 9, 1953. The Worcester Tornado touched down as an F4 tornado, with wind speeds between 200 and 260 mph. It carved a path 46 miles long, from Petersham, Mass., to Southboro, Mass., while continuing for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Ninety people were killed. The same day, tornadoes touched down in Exeter and Sutton, Mass.
Aug. 17-19, 1955: Hurricane Diane produced a 24-hour rainfall
total of 18.15 inches (the New England record) and a storm total of 19.75 inches
of rainfall. Extreme flooding occurred in all of New England especially since
Tropical Storm had saturated the ground only a few days prior. At one
point over 40% of Worcester, MA was underwater. Woonsocket, RI was
hit hard as the Blackstone River, normally only 70 feet wide, swelled to over
1.5 miles in width. 82 people died and damage topped $800,000,000.
Feb. 5-7, 1978. The Blizzard of '78 was caused by an intense coastal Nor'easter with winds in excess of hurricane force and high snow totals. Northern Rhode Island received more than 50 inches of snow, with most of southeastern New England buried beneath three or more feet. The region was paralyzed for more than a week.
August 2, 1975 - "Hot Saturday" set all-time heat records in eastern New England. It was 107 in Massachusetts at New Bedford and Chester, 105 in Maine and New Hampshire, and 104 in Rhode Island at Providence. It even reached an unprecedented 104 on the coast in eastern Maine with 104 at Jonesboro and 101 at Bar Harbor