The Great September Gale hammered the growing city on September 3, 1821. The next day's newspapers described widespread destruction, and those who lived through the storm never forgot it.
And that particular hurricane holds a special place in history as a New Englander with scientific interests studied its effects. By noting the direction of trees toppled by the great storm, William C. Redfield came up with the theory that hurricanes were enormous whirlwinds.
Redfield's writings about rotating storms became the basis of modern hurricane science. And much of the hurricane lore we absorb watching news coverage of Hurricane Isaac this week will be rooted in the storm that caught New York City by surprise 191 years ago.
Illustration: William C. Redfield, early hurricane scientist/Library of Congress
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