I was a rookie educator at the time, having just secured my first position as a seventh grade teacher in a self-contained classroom at a private school in New Haven. Weather was my passion, naturally, and I was able to share my excitement at the upcoming storm. Just three weeks into the profession, I received a week's vacation unexpectedly.
I was also a weekend newscaster and disc jockey at WMMM radio in Westport. I received a phone call from program director Gary Zenobia just after I returned home from school on Thursday afternoon requesting that I host an overnight newscast to inform our listeners about the impending storm and emergency measures which may have to be taken. WMMM was a daytime-only station, meaning it was on the air during daylight hours and signed off at sunset, but this time it was granted an exception by the Federal Communications Commission.
As my family was applying duct tape to picture windows, securing lawn furniture, stocking up on non-perishable food, and checking batteries for flashlights and portable radios, I was packing a bag for my overnight stay at the radio station. We had a few reporters "on location" at various shelters throughout town, and then-First Selectman William Seiden joined me on the air most of the night to reassure listeners that their safety was our primary concern.
The overnight hours were anxious moments for all of us as we awaited the arrival of the storm. Local shelters began to fill up quickly, and I remember answering the telephone every couple of minutes from town residents who were sharing their concerns and fears. Gloria struck quickly and furiously. The hurricane hit New York and Connecticut as a moderate hurricane early the next day. At the time of landfall on Long Island, Gloria had sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, while rapidly moving forward at 35 miles per hour.
This combination of sustained winds and rapid forward motion produced major hurricane conditions and gusts to 115 mph across a narrow area of Eastern Long Island, New York. Although Gloria was not a major hurricane when it struck Connecticut, it was still the most damaging hurricane to strike the state since Carol in 1954. The rain began overnight, and before long the winds became a serious matter.
As the morning wore on, Gloria continued to accelerate northward off the Eastern seaboard, brushing the coastlines of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey with hurricane-force gusts. Later that morning, Gloria finally crossed the coast of the United States mainland near western Long Island about 10-miles East of Kennedy International Airport. Passing over central Long Island, Gloria crossed the Connecticut coast near Bridgeport about 40 minutes later with sustained winds of 80 mph. By that time, I was already home, but there was no way I was going to go to sleep.