THE 1815 HURRICANE: AN AGENT OF GREAT DESTRUCTION AND COASTAL CHANGE ON EASTERN LONG ISLAND AND IN SOUTHEAST NEW ENGLAND
Winds within the right eyewall in Southampton caused massive tree destruction on the morainal hills inland from the shoreline. Historical accounts refer to extensive tree uprooting that created "pits and hollows" on the hills that were visible for at least 50 years afterward. Considering that most of the trees were primeval oak with thick trunks, the wind force must have been great. The extensive tree uprooting, as opposed to breakage, suggests that heavy precipitation preceded and accompanied the storm. This pattern was later observed in the 1938 Hurricane.
Easterly winds in the front eyewall drove LI Sound waters westward, through a decreasing cross section, as they rose in level steadily toward New York City. Sound waters were also driven northward into funnel-shaped estuaries such as Naragansett Bay. Storm surge levels in Providence reached heights exceeded only by the 1938 Hurricane. Comparison of a number of damage patterns with those in the well documented 1938 Hurricane indicate that the 1815 storm was at least a high Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
This forensic reconstruction of a historic major hurricane allows us to more accurately predict what the inevitable future landfall of a major hurricane would do along the most populated and developed hurricane-prone shoreline in America.