Water rushing out of Sinepuxent Bay carves a new channel through the barrier beach, cutting rail lines and severing Ocean City from what became Assateague Island. What looked like a disaster was quickly recognized as a boon to the resort's economy.
Water rushing out of Sinepuxent Bay carves a new channel through the barrier beach, cutting rail lines and severing Ocean City from what became Assateague Island. What looked like a disaster was quickly recognized as a boon to the resort's economy. (Baltimore Sun files / 1933)

For years, citizens of Ocean City had lobbied the federal government to build an inlet connecting the brackish waters of the Sinepuxent Bay with the Atlantic. It would be a boon for the sleepy surfside town, they argued, allowing a safe port for fishing as well as a distribution point for crabs, oysters and clams.

Their prayers were answered by nature in August 1933. The storm was known simply as the Great Hurricane of 1933, as the modern hurricane naming system had yet to be introduced.

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High tides washed over Baltimore Avenue and flooded the causeway to the mainland. Several houses, fishing camps, and even the railroad were all swept away.

Mountainous waves swept into the resort and covered some of the streets with two feet of sand. The storm was described in the American Meteorological Society's August 1933 weather review as "one of the most severe storms that has ever visited the Middle Atlantic Coast."
Mountainous waves swept into the resort and covered some of the streets with two feet of sand. The storm was described in the American Meteorological Society's August 1933 weather review as "one of the most severe storms that has ever visited the Middle Atlantic Coast." (Baltimore Sun files / 1933)

“Spindrift and rain driving in from the sea made it a gray and awesome sight,” a Sun reporter later recalled.

But there was a silver lining. The Sinepuxent Bay overflowed into the Atlantic, creating the long-awaited pathway to the ocean.

Later that year, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the area and built jetties that would help ensure that the inlet was not swept away as previous ones had been.

The storm's wind and waves tore out long stretches of the Boardwalk. It was rebuilt to stand taller, hopefully above future storm waves.
The storm's wind and waves tore out long stretches of the Boardwalk. It was rebuilt to stand taller, hopefully above future storm waves. (Baltimore Sun files / 1933)

The inlet transformed Ocean City's fledgling fishing industry, allowing the growth of both large-scale operations as well as sport fishing. Additionally, it increased the salinity of the Sinepuxent Bay, bringing more flavorful oysters and clams to the waters.

A 1946 article in The Sun called it "Act of God Inlet."

"The birth pains were almost unbearable, but the agony is now remembered only as a blessing."

The hurricane did for Ocean City what fishermen could not.

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