Hurricanes Then & Now

Trenton Evening Times Oct 29, 1954, Page 12

You may date yourself if you remember Hurricanes Hazel, Diane, or Gloria, but it is likely you or someone you know, can probably recall the effects of other tropical storms on our area.

Previously here, in August 2011, we reported on the effects of Hurricane Irene on our area. Only a year later, the Frankenstorm known as Hurricane Sandy resulted in the cancellation of classes for two days at Riverton School and pushed back the Palmyra Halloween Parade two days to November 1.

Time will only tell what effects this next hurricane has on our area.

Yesterday the National Weather Service upgraded Florence to a Category 4 storm, and governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina declared states of emergency.  While a hurricane’s effects on New Jersey are rare, Hurricane Florence could bring its residual effects to New Jersey.

According to Newsweek, parts of the state may experience heavy rain, coastal flooding, and high surf as Florence’s tropical storm-force winds pound the shore.

THE VAGABOND HURRICANE of 1903 killed around 35 people and caused millions in damage, particularly near the coastline. Dozens of buildings were destroyed, like this home in Sea Bright, New Jersey on Sept. 16, 1903.

Looking way back to September 1903, a hurricane dubbed “The Vagabond Hurricane” by the Atlantic City Press directly struck the state, making landfall on Atlantic City as an 80 mph hurricane.

Philadelphia Inquirer Sept 17, 1903 Philadelphia, PA p2

The September 17, 1903 Philadelphia Inquirer summarized the destuction sustained in New Jersey communities by that storm. It reported that the Vagabond Hurricane had damaged a score of sailing craft at Riverton Yacht Club and almost cost John Bell his life.

Trenton Evening Times Sept 23, 1938 p2

The western edge of the New England Hurricane of 1938 caused tropical storm-force winds and high waves on its way to landfall on Long Island. Storm surge along the Jersey Shore destroyed much of the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

The New Era, Sept 21, 1944, p1

The path and ferocity of the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 echoed effects of the 1938 storm and inflicted heavy damage to the shore towns on Long Beach Island, Atlantic City, Ocean City, and Cape May.

The New Era, Sept 21, 1944, p1

Riverton’s  The New Era newspaper described the toll taken on residents’ shore properties by the storm.

During World War II, military meteorologists working in the Pacific began to use women’s names for storms. In 1953, the National Hurricane Center adopted the method for use on storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean. Meteorologists for the Atlantic Ocean began using men’s names in 1979. Names for hurricanes are chosen from a list developed by the World Meteorological Organization.

Names of especially deadly and destructive hurricanes, like 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, are often retired, and will not be used again.

If you remember a year for a hurricane but not the name of it (or vice versa), this historical list of hurricanes that affected New Jersey may help.

Finally, click here for’s 12 monster storms that rocked New Jersey.

Please share your recollection of a past hurricane’s effects on Riverton, and let us know how your neighborhood fares as we endure this latest tropical storm. Send text or photos to or share a Facebook post to our Facebook page.



Hurricane Irene (and other forces of nature) go down in local history

credit: Ivrie Myrhe

Since this is the website for the Historical Society of Riverton, the operative word being ‘historical,’ it is worth noting some remarkable facts which we shall record for August 2011. A rare 5.8 earthquake struck NJ August 23rd, followed closely by a hurricane, tornado warnings, and floods. And according to the yesterday’s Courier-Post, it is now official: For the Philadelphia/South Jersey region, August is already the wettest month in recorded history, breaking a century-old record.

I wondered how Riverton would fare after the white-capped Delaware finished slamming that riverwall at high tide and hurricane winds ripped through the streets and avenues of our favorite Tree City. So I emailed my stringers (actually two other HSR Board members) and they checked in with this report.

The sea was angry that day, my friends. (credit: Susan Dechnik)

My friend and former teaching partner at RPS, Susan Dechnik accompanies her Facebook photos of Irene’s effects on the riverbank with an àpropos quote from Seinfeld, her favorite TV show. It’s from the classic “Marine Biologist” episode.

She reports that winds blew down a large part of a tree near 8th & Main, blocking the sidewalk.

She adds, “The river was wild, didn’t breach the bank, but was splashing over.  The wind was incredible and a little scary.”

Does that line of debris across the grass indicate the high water mark? (credit; Ivrie Myhre)

HSR President Gerald Weaber reports that the river rose above the riverwall and winds had strewn about some limbs and branches, but he did not hear of any major damage from the storm.

These few stills, kindly provided by local photographer Ivrie Myhre of confirm that Riverton generally withstood what Irene dished out.

That was not the case for all the surrounding communities, however.

credit: Ivrie Myhre

Just five minutes away at Riverton Road and Rte. 130, Irene’s capricious winds toppled a large tree in front of Bayard’s Chocolate House, and her relentless rains flooded some Cinnaminson homes and streets.

Our HSR website gets dozens, sometimes even over a hundred visits daily. True, most of them were probably googling for Rivertons in CT, CA, IL, UT, VA, WY, or even AU and wound up here by mistake. Nonetheless, inquiring readers want to know, Rivertonians. What happened in your neighborhood?

You can click on the Facebook link at the bottom of this page to visit the HSR wall where Susan Dechnik and a varied, albeit short, cast of characters “liked” us in a moment of lapsed judgment.  Please join in.

Also, that CinnaminsonPatch is a cool community-specific news, events, and information website that I never heard of, but one which I’ll certainly look up again. You’ll find more photo galleries by Ivrie Myhre and other local photographers along with news stories written by the local Patch Team.

It’s a young and growing website, but if the amount of Riverton coverage continues to expand they may have to change the name.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Waiting for Irene

Hunkered down here on high ground in Delran watching the 20 lbs. of grass seed that I put down in my backyard a few days ago wash down the street, I thought I’d take my mind off dire forecasts of flooding and power outages by catching up on some HSR website correspondence.

Madeline writes about the Stone Harbor, NJ Images 

My Mother remembers the boardwalk at Stone Harbor. Does anyone know when it was built and when it was destroyed? Thanks

I emailed my good friend who has provided so many scans of these old postcards, and I asked him about the Stone Harbor boardwalk. Of course the topic of the day is the hurricane (four days ago, it was the 5.8 earthquake), so I mentioned that.  He wrote back:

Brace yourselves for Irene.  I sure remember, most vividly still today, a hurricane that hit South Jersey and headed up and did substantial damage in New England back in the mid-fifties time frame.  The wind was incessant as I recall.  Most harrowing for a child or adult to experience.  Good luck. 

As for Stone Harbor’s boardwalk, it was dedicated in 1916 and lasted slightly less than 30 years.  Sadly, all of the boardwalk washed away in the terrible storm of 1944.  Always happy to provide information relative to these super postcard time- capsules. 

My aunt and uncle had a place on LBI and we took a drive down to view the aftermath of that 1950s hurricane.  That’s when “the bay met the ocean” and water cut the island in two.  We saw so many cottages and homes destroyed. Was it Hurricane Hazel, Readers??

OMG! (as these young folks say).  Comcast just interrupted the TV cable feed for a Burlington County tornado warning.

A couple of weeks ago we received a comment about a LBI postcard which evoked sweet memories for A. Kotzin who writes:

I have the most wonderful childhood memories of staying at the Baldwin Hotel. Our family spent a couple weeks each summer at Beach Haven, staying at the Baldwin. As a child this spectacular building provided exceptional exploring opportunities. My dad was a watercolorist who painted a wonderful painting of an adjacent property, where nuns spent summer vacations. He did so while sitting on the balcony of our room.

When the Baldwin burnt to the ground, Beach Haven lost a large part of its identity.

Thank you for posting this beautiful rendition of the grand old Baldwin.

It’s my pleasure to bring these pictures and information to you. What have you found in these pages that has struck a chord for you?   We have lots more room to post any images or recollections you have to share.

Stay safe. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor