Wham! It hit me right between the eyes. I couldn't stop reading until I learned what happened to the kids on that bus. R.A. Scotti's detailed and moving account of physical destruction and human drama is a must-read for any storm watcher.
Initially projected to strike the Miami-Palm Beach area, the Category 5 Hurricane veered off course and went nearly unnoticed by the U.S. Weather Bureau's Washington D.C. office. If, according to Scotti's well-documented account, the higher-ups at the U.S. Weather Bureau's Washington D.C. office had listened to one junior forecaster, residents of Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island might have been able to brace themselves against the raging sea. Instead, the 2:00 p.m. weather advisory from Washington made no reference to the term "hurricane." A mere half-hour later, residents of Patchogue were blindsided when the Great Hurricane of 1938 slammed into eastern Long Island.
Scotti brings to this tale a human element so often missing in other books of this genre. This is, in many ways, a tale of human survival. Much of the book is drawn from personal interviews with survivors and, in that respect, "Sudden Sea" is, in part, a recording of oral history. Scotti's background as a novelist is evident throughout - I could clearly imagine Harriet and Margaret Moore clinging to shards of their rooftop as they floated through shark-infested waters from Napatree, Rhode Island towards Stonington, Connecticut, the children gathered for an end-of-summer party in Westhampton and the school bus mired the the murky waters near Mackerel Cove. In laying out the human drama, Scotti also discusses the conditions that allow such a storm to gain such force, investigates the failure of the U.S. Weather Bureau to issue appropriate weather advisories and questions whether such a storm could have such an impact today. I definitely recommend it!