Dividing summer from autumn, vacation from school, September is one of those transitional months.
Berries and corn give way to grapes and apples at farm stands as autumn looms, officially starting on Sept. 23. As days and nights cool, bringing along a sweatshirt or a sweater becomes advisable — not just in case the air conditioning is overpowering..
“We still get some warm days when it feels like summer, but in general, it begins to cool,” said Peter Wichrowski, an Islip-based National Weather Service meteorologist.
September also straddles the Atlantic Ocean's June 1 to Nov. 30 hurricane season. So while the sea, which cools less swiftly than the air, tempts swimmers with late-summer warmth, there is a downside to those higher temperatures: more intense storms.
Hurricanes typically start in the tropics with thunderstorms in the ocean, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. "When the surface water is warm, the storm sucks up heat energy from the water, just like a straw sucks up a liquid,” it says. The air then becomes moist — and with the right winds, a hurricane arises, it says.
“We’re coming up on the peak of the tropical (storm) season, usually the mid- to late-part of September, and of course warmer temperatures would allow some of the storms to maintain their strength even if they head this far north,” Wichrowski said.
How about this year?
This September on Long Island could be a bit warmer than years past. While September might be cooler at the start, the average temperature might be a bit higher than previously.
“There is an indication it is likely to be in the top one-third of years in the 30-year period,” said weather service meteorologist Dan Collins, who is based in College Park, Maryland.
There is too little data for the weather service to predict the likely precipitation for the whole month — though Hurricane Dorian might bring significant amounts to the region as the month starts, Collins said.
WHAT'S NORMAL, WHAT'S NOT
The mean temperature in September is 65.6 degrees, according to the weather service, with a maximum of 73.8 and a minimum of 57.5 degrees.
The hottest September since 1963, when Islip’s records began, was just four years ago: 70.9 degrees in September 2015, the weather service said. The coolest occurred during that first year of record-keeping: 59.7 degrees in September 1963.
The record daily high was 94 degrees in 1973.
The normal amount of rain is 3.58 inches.
The wettest September was 1966, with 7.5 inches of rain, the weather service said. The driest September was 1985, with a scant 0.81 inch, when New York State suffered through its worst drought in decades.
Normal is no snow at all.
Three of Long Island’s worst September storms remain the Sept. 21, 1938, Long Island Express; Hurricane Donna, which pummeled the East Coast on Sept. 12 and 13, 1960; and Hurricane Gloria, which struck on Sept. 27, 1985.
The Express and Donna were Category 3 storms. That ranking and ones higher are the most powerful storms. They can be expected to cost people their lives and property.
Though Gloria had been downgraded to Category 1 from 4 when its eye traveled over Fire Island with 100 mph winds, as News 12 Long Island meteorologist Bill Korbel said, "The damage was incredible."
Also called the “Great Hurricane of 1938,” the Express hit Long Island near Moriches Inlet, where it widened the channel, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State University of New York. Barreling over the east end of Long Island with a top wind speed of 96 mph, it carved out the Shinnecock Inlet.
The Express killed around 600 to 800 people, left 63,000 homeless, destroyed 2 billion trees, and caused approximately $620 million of damage, measured in 1938 dollars, experts say.
The storm's eye stretched 43 miles, from Brentwood to Mattituck, and a 20-foot storm surge swept clean most of the beach at Westhampton and washed away 89 houses in the Village of Saltaire on Fire Island.
Newsreel footage shows the storm soaking roads and waves crashing in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and across the Island. There are rare photographs taken while the storm was coming through Fishers Island.
The ferocious 1938 hurricane roared into Elsie Warta's life while she was waitressing at a restaurant on Napeague Harbor, just west of Montauk, when the wind and water started to pound against the windows.
"I let out a scream: 'The ocean. The ocean is coming in,'" Warta, then 90 and living in Lindenhurst, told Newsday in 2008. The Coast Guard evacuated the restaurant to a nearby station, but it, too, was buffeted by fierce waves.
"We stayed there all night," she said. "If it hadn't stopped when it did, we would have gone out to sea ... Thank God we were there the next morning."
Donna is the sole storm in recorded history to ravage Florida, the mid-Atlantic states and New England with hurricane-force winds, according to a University of Rhode Island project, the Hurricanes: Science and Society.
Originating off the northwest coast of Africa, Hurricane Donna claimed 364 lives; that is about one-fifth the number slain by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Who better to relate Donna's destructive power than John Steinbeck, who was on the brink of setting forth with his poodle for the cross-country trip that would become "Travels With Charley." In an excerpt published by Newsday, Steinbeck related how — though his wife ran after him, ordering him to stop — he insisted on powering up his boat and heading out to open water to save it from being smashed against a pier by two boats that had broken free.
Eleven people died on Long Island because of Hurricane Gloria, mostly due to falling trees, Korbel said. More than 1,100 homes were damaged, and damage was estimated at $285 million. Around 30,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas, 750,000 lacked power for weeks, and President Ronald Reagan declared Long Island a disaster area.
Laura A. Lindley, 61, who in 2015 still lived in the same Babylon house that was flooded during Gloria, said she and her husband, Walter Lindley, were glad they evacuated ahead of Gloria. When the couple returned to their two-story home near Frederick Canal, they had to park more than a quarter-mile away.
"There was still water in the streets," Lindley said. "I remembered walking down the street and it looked like a tornado had come down the block. All the trees had fallen. They lined up perfectly. They were all facing north."
Chairs, lawn furniture and lots of other debris bobbed in the bay like children's toys floating in a pool.
"When we opened the garage the water came out," she said. "The basement was filled with water."
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