Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


Hurricane of 1938, 1938


On September 21, 1938, the first hurricane recorded in the history of the weather bureau in New England struck the northeast, causing over one hundred deaths and over $100,000,000 of property damage in Massachusetts alone. At Tufts, although trees and power lines went down across campus, no one was injured and no major damage was reported to any buildings.

"The Big Wind," as it was nicknamed, hit New England with almost no warning. Two days prior, all signs had pointed to the hurricane going ashore in Florida, and many homeowners across the South had already begun boarding their windows and hunkering down for the storm. On September 19, however, the storm moved between two high-pressure areas and began to race northwards. Not expecting a storm of such magnitude, New Englanders did not prepare themselves adequately. When winds began to pick up during the afternoon of September 21, many people were out running errands and going about their everyday business. Many of the deaths blamed on the storm occurred when a fifteen foot tidal wave struck the coastline of Massachusetts and Rhode Island right as schools were letting out for the day.

The Somerville area, luckily out of range of the abnormally high tides and the tidal wave, was battered by winds topping one hundred miles per hour. Trees were blown over, power lines snapped, and the entire roof of St. Joseph's Church in Somerville was blown off.

At Tufts, the winds started to pick up immediately following a faculty meeting concerning the arrival of pre-registration students, planned to begin on September 24. Professors reported feeling increasing winds as they made their way home, and soon after began to witness the destructive power of the storm. Some professors worked quickly to brace trees, while others attempted to film and photograph the storm. The first trees to collapse in the wind were those on the golf course. The heavy winds simply uprooted the trees, leaving them lying on their sides, roots in the air.

The next morning, after the winds had died down and the damage could be inspected, it was determined that a total of sixty-three trees had been lost in the storm. Along with the trees, a number of power lines had come down, either because of the falling trees or because the poles holding up the lines had snapped in half. The tree damage was especially heavy on the Academic Quad, where fallen trees completely blocked the path from Ballou to Packard. Trees also littered the quad in front of and behind the Goddard chapel. Incredibly, not one falling tree damaged any Tufts building.

Over the next few days, a massive cleanup operation began. Using a steam shovel already on campus for construction use, university workers dug out the uprooted trees and hauled the remains off of the campus in large trucks. The Edison Malden Electric Company, along with Tufts Professor Crabtree and others, helped to restore power to the university. After matriculation, even students joined the effort. A large group of freshmen worked for an entire Saturday removing debris from the top of the hill.

Within a few weeks, the campus was clean of debris, and power had been restored to all buildings. Although the storm left its mark by destroying so many trees, Tufts was able to escape the hurricane almost unscathed.

Source: MBWS, 1-3

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  • The encyclopedia seeks to capture more than 150 years of Tufts' achievements, societal contributions and outstanding alumni and faculty in concise entries. As a source of accurate factual information, the Encyclopedia can be used by anyone interested in the history of Tufts and of the people who have made it the unique institution it is.
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Numeric Entries
Dame, Lorin Low, 1838-1903
Dana, Charles A., 1881-1975
Dana Laboratory, 1963
Daniel Ounjian Prize in Economics,
Davies, Caroline Stodder, 1864-1939
Davies House, 1894
De Florez Prize in Human Engineering, 1964
de Pacheco, Kaye MacKinnon, ca. 1910-ca. 1985
Dean Hall, 1887-1963
Dean, Oliver, 1783-1871
Dearborn, Heman Allen, 1831-1897
Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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