Anticipating Irene, Remembering Bob, Gloria, Carol, and 1938
The North Shore has been fortunate for the last half-century.
As we prepare for whatever Hurricane Irene has in store for the North Shore of Massachusetts, it would serve well to look at the past.
The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 was and still is the mother of all modern New England Hurricanes. It was the first major hurricane to strike the region in almost 70 years. It hit New England as a category 3 hurricane, making landfall at high tide on Long Island, NY, on Sept 21. It is estimated that this storm killed up to 800 people.
Legend has it that the retaining wall at the bottom of Saltonstall Parkway, across from thePalmer Cove tennis courts, was marked to denote the high tide mark from the tidal surge.
Over the last 60 years or so, more than a few large storms have threatened the area. Warnings were issued, emergency preparations were made, and everyone battened down the hatches as the storms approached.
Hurricane Carol in 1954 made landfall at high tide on Long Island, NY on Aug. 30 as a category 3 hurricane. Carol produced winds that peaked at 130 MPH in Massachusetts with strong storm surges. The eastern portion of Massachusetts suffered power outages.
1961 brought Hurricane Donna to Massachusetts, but there was no real impact on the North Shore.
In 1976, Hurricane Belle made an appearance with much fanfare. It also made landfall on Long Island. Evacuations were conducted in New York City and as far north as Cape Cod.
Belle was a dud up here. Some friends of mine were very disappointed in this storm. They had stocked up on beer and other sundries and intended to face the storm from the steps of theCustoms House. All they got for their efforts was a little wet as the winds were a bit mild hurricane-wise, while the rainfall totaled just under five inches.
Sept. 27, 1985 brought us Hurricane Gloria. Long Island was again the place where the storm made landfall. Gloria maintained hurricane status as it passed through the North Shore of Massachusetts, but it produced weak storm surges due to the low tide. Gloria's major local impact was due to her high winds.
Hurricane Bob in 1991 made multiple landfalls and and caused over a billion dollars worth of damage in New England. Most of the coastal damage occurred in southeastern Massachusetts, but there was impact along the coast of the North Shore. Bob brought winds of 66 MPH to the area along with just over three inches of rain.
Irene is on the way. Watch for where she makes landfall and what the tidal status is at the time. Long Island seems to be key for us. If she makes landfall there or further north, we may be in for a ride.
No matter what happens, or where she hits, odds are there won't be a roll of toilet paper, a case of bottled water, a flashlight, or a package of batteries on store shelves anywhere in Salem come Tuesday morning.