Weather-Wise: Dr. Lourdes Avilés, "The History of the Great New England Hurricane as Documented by the People"

Shirley Wajda's picture

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March 11, 2021
United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, Architecture and Architectural History

In this second lecture of Enfield Shaker Museum's "Weather-Wise" program, Dr. Lourdes Avilés, Professor of Meteorology at Plymouth State University, discusses the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, the most devastating tropical cyclone of all time to affect the region. Only two other comparable storms have been documented before or since. The effects of the storm were all encompassing and affected the entire region.

Those who experienced the hurricane found many ways to document it: scrapbooks, photographic collections, objects made with fallen wood, songs, poems, fictional stories, as well as a massive number of historical accounts, and technical reports. Dr. Avilés has been studying the Great New England Hurricane for more than ten years and published a book on its science and history that weaves an interdisciplinary account of the storm and its effects. She will also put the storm in the context of previous New England hurricanes and what climate change means for such storms.

Lourdes Avilés, a Trustee of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, teaches at Plymouth State University. Her areas of expertise include historical, physical, dynamical, and tropical meteorology, as well as air quality, interdisciplinary connections of meteorological phenomena, and public communication about severe weather science and safety. She teaches both undergraduate courses for the B.S. in Meteorology and the general education program, and graduate courses for the M.S. in Applied Meteorology. Her current courses include atmospheric physics, dynamic meteorology, climate dynamics, tropical meteorology, and air quality. She was the 2020 recipient of the PSU Faculty Excellence in Service award. Dr. Avilés currently conducts research on historical meteorology. Her book, Taken by Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane earned the 2014 History Choice award of the Atmospheric Science Librarians International. Dr. Avilés is currently working on a book on the science and history of atmospheric optics.

"Weather-Wise: Historical Documents, Contemporary Conversations" is Enfield Shaker Museum's year-long engagement with craftivism and climate change. This project was made possible with support from New Hampshire Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more at


Contact Info: 

Dr. Shirley Wajda, Executive Director

Enfield Shaker Museum

447 NH Route 4A

Enfield, NH 03748