This summer, Peabody has experienced 2 earthquakes, a tornado warning, heavy rains, flooding and Tropical Storm Henri. So, we thought it was time to revisit another major weather event – the Hurricane of 1938.
On Wednesday, September 21, 1938, a category 3 hurricane hit Peabody. It raged from 4pm to the early hours of the following day. There were 99-mile an hour winds and heavy rains.
On Fairview Avenue alone, 37 trees in a row toppled over in the storm. Main roads, such as the Newburyport Turnpike, Andover Street, Lynn Street and Washington Street, just to name a few, were impassable. Windows blew in, awnings lay in pieces and a local paper reported “shingles by the thousands were blown off roofs of homes and from various churches.”
A portion of Peabody Square was roped off, as the South Congregational Church’s steeple swayed dangerously in the wind. Eventually, the Church’s exterior clock blew off, landing on Railroad Avenue. The copper cupola, or small tower, on top of City Hall flew off and landed 150 feet away on Lowell Street.
A West Peabody resident was stranded in Boston as the 6pm train did not make it home until 1:30am. She called the police to check on her children home alone on Cobb Avenue. Thankfully they reported that they “found the youngsters sleeping peacefully through the storm.”
Brooksby Farm lost thousands of dollars of apples, peaches and pears. It was also reported that “a 60-foot building at the William Powers’ turkey ranch on Summit Street collapsed during the storm, killing more than 50 prize turkeys. More than 350 turkeys were in the building at the time.”
Fortunately, no one was killed in the storm, but there were some minor injuries.
Once the storm settled, it became clear that the property damage was immense. The Electric Department worked tirelessly to restore electricity. The Department of Public Works, the City’s Tree Department and 100 men from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) cleared all of the storm debris in the days that followed.
Peabody Historical Society & Museum – Library and Archives
Arthur A. Francis. The Salem News, “1938 hurricane wreaked havoc on region,” August 24, 2019.
The Salem Evening News, “Peabody Paragraphs” September 22-24, 1938.