The Storm of 1933- A First Hand Account of Ocean City, Maryland’s Historical Hurricane

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1933 ocean city md
The storm of 1933 changed Ocean City's landscape forever.

It was 90 years ago that a major hurricane wrecked havoc on the vacation paradise that we all know and love. The storm of 1933, which was before hurricanes had names, is recounted by Irma Jones Jester. 

Irma Jones Jester recounts the Storm of 1933

“The Storm of 1933”

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Flooding in the street caused major damage to the Ocean City area. Photo courtesy of the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.

by Irma Jones Jester- 1983
“On the evening of August 22, 1933 the wind was blowing a gale. The ocean was coming up very high, even breaking on the boardwalk and running down Worcester Street. My husband and I operated a lunchroom at the corner of Worcester Street and the boardwalk.
Our bedroom was directly over the lunchroom with an outside stairway leading to it. We went to bed but there was little sleep that night. The building was shaking and creaking and we would not have been surprised to have the roof taken off, or our place badly damaged. At five o’clock in the morning we were looking out the window and saw a big wave come up and lift the boardwalk up from its foundation. When the wave retreated it took the lamppost that was at the head of the street with it. My husband said, “I think it’s time we left this place.” I had an antique rocker in the bedroom. My husband grabbed that and started for the steps. The wind was blowing so hard; it tore the chair from his grasp so that idea had to be abandoned. In one corner of the room lay a new pair of shoes I had just purchased. I decided to save them. We expected everything to be washed away. In the meantime the bay had come up to meet the ocean on the side streets and water was knee deep on Baltimore Avenue.

Flooding in the Streets

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For those who stayed through the terrible storm, clean up began immediately. Photo courtesy of the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.

We owned a home on North Division Street and we headed for it wading very carefully. Lots of debris was in the water and the street was undermined in several places. Boats were being rowed on Baltimore Avenue and the side streets.
I stepped in a crack and tore one heel off my shoe. After the wind changed my husband and I went back to our business and our bedroom. There, comfortably and safe, were my old shoes, high and dry. The new one’s ruined.

Abandoning Businesses

1933 ocean city md
Did you know that two train cars actually sunk in the inlet and are still there today? Photo courtesy of the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.

My mother operated a small restaurant on the ocean side of the boardwalk at South Second Street. The waves were breaking so hard they came into the windows and water was several inches deep on the floor. My mother and father had stayed there through the night, but had to abandon it in the morning and go over into the Windsor Resort buildings. Several other concession people were there also. During the storm of rain and wind, I stood over by my mother’s business. This was in the exact place where the museum is now at the located. I watched the cutting of the
inlet.

Fish Camps and Shanties

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Fish camps were places where fishermen lived in upstairs quarters. Photo courtesy of the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.

The bay was responsible for the cutting of the inlet as was the ocean. The bay was full of water and very choppy. I could see it making inroads toward the ocean. Down along the bay were small houseboats called shanties. People lived in these but had to be evacuated.
Luckily no lives were lost. There were also large houses in groups call “Fish Camps”. The upper floors were used as a dormitory for fishermen to live in who did not have a home in Ocean City.
I watched the rushing waters of the ocean draw closer and closer to the fish camps and I watched as a large building fell into the water. Several of the shanties were torn from their moorings and demolished. Several sections of the boardwalk were torn up and washed away by the swirling tide. At one time there was a little dog on a small island in the inlet. Several people were concerned. I never knew whether he was rescued or not.

The Cutting of the Inlet

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An aerial shot of the new inlet shows the incredible break through, which is now considered a blessing to the OCMD area. Photo courtesy of the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum.

In the afternoon the wind changed, the sun came out and the ocean had retreated, but it had left us an inlet! At the time it seemed a tragedy had happened, but it proved to be a “God Send” to Ocean City.

A great clean up started and people began getting back to normal, not yet realizing just what the inlet meant to them until a little later when it led to a great improvement in the economy, tourist trade and the building boom of today.

The train bridge was washed out in the storm and the train no longer comes into Ocean City but there are modern buses, cars, trucks, and planes to provide transportation of people and products.
Ocean City has weathered other storms. Many people have been evacuated but natives never leave. They are strong in body and spirit and nerves.”

 

Photograph of Irma Jester taken by Sandra Hurley

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