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New England Hurricanes of the Past

By Keith Spencer

MASSACHUSETTS – More than forty tropical systems have impacted our region over the last century, including both coastal events and major storms across the Commonwealth. Residents of the Bay State must prepare for not only coastal storm surge but also widespread damage caused by river flooding and high winds. More than a dozen of notable hurricanes have proven catastrophic, and offer reminders as to why residents should prepare for natural disasters. Here’s a look at a few of these storms.

The Great Colonial Hurricane: August 25, 1635

The first historical record of an intense hurricane striking New England, the highest winds of this storm were estimated at 115-plus mph, akin to a modern category 3. The eye of the storm is rumored to have passed between Boston and Plymouth. At least 46 casualties have been attributed to this storm.

The Great September Gale of 1815: September 23, 1815

The first intense storm to impact New England since the Great Colonial Hurricane, the category 3 storm had winds in excess of 135 mph, and caused severe damage in New York, Connecticut, Providence, and the central/coastal areas of Massachusetts. 38 deaths were attributed to the storm.

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938: September 21, 1938

This Category 5 hurricane was the first to strike in nearly seventy years, and churned at 60-70 mph after it passed off the coast of North Carolina. Known later as the “The Long Island Express”, it made landfall as a category 3. Winds reached 120 mph outside the Boston area. The destruction left in its wake was widespread with more than $400 million to 9,000 homes and businesses as well as 6,000 vessels.

The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944: September 14-15, 1944

The first hurricane to be “officially named”, the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 was a category 4 storm that caused more than $100 million in damage, disrupting World War II with the sinking of a destroyer, minesweeper, and two cutters. 46 deaths were attributed to the storm.

Hurricane Carol: August 31, 1954

This powerful storm killed 68 and caused more than $460 million, destroying 4,000 homes and 3,000 vessels. Over 6″ of rain fell, and winds knocked out power in most of eastern Massachusetts. The storm continued to bring strong winds and rain to New Hampshire and Maine as it crossed New England. Carol was the first Atlantic hurricane name to be retired after devastating the east coast. Hurricane Edna arrived just two weeks after Carol on September 11, responsible for 2 deaths and $40 million in damage.

Hurricane Diane: August 17-19, 1955

Weakened to a tropical storm status when it reached Southern New England, Diane has been recognized as the wettest storm to hit the region, dropping 10-20″ of rain in various areas. Blamed for 200 deaths and more than $800 million in damage, Diana qualified as the most costly hurricane at the time.

Hurricane Gloria: September 27, 1985
Hurricane Gloria was a powerful Category 4 storm with winds measuring at 145 mph. With just 8 deaths, storm damage was costly, reaching nearly $1 billion, and ultimately leaving more than 2 million residents without power. Flooding was a major concern across Massachusetts, with more than 6″ of rain falling in less then a 24-hour period.

Hurricane Bob: August 19, 1991
The most recent hurricane to impact Massachusetts, Bob made landfall in New Bedford with winds topping 115 mph. 60% of residents across Southeastern Massachusetts lost power. 7″ of rain was reported through out New England. The storm caused 18 deaths and more than $2.5 billion in damages.

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