August 19: Remembering Hurricane Bob after 30 years and the 1955 Flood

The history of a disaster

Hurricane Bob swept into Cape Cod 30 years ago today, devastating the peninsula with sustained winds of 96 to 100 miles per hour and gusts as extreme as 125 miles per hour. The hurricane slammed the Cape in the peak of the tourist season on Monday, Aug. 19, 1991.

Bob was a short-lived event with lengthy consequences. All across the Cape, electricity was lost, and in certain parts, it took ten days for power to be restored. While the electricity was down, many houses depended on well water and were left without a drinking water source.

Over  twelve lives were lost due to the hurricane, which also destroyed houses, knocked out electricity, and wreaked havoc on Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s coasts. The storm caused the worst damage from Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod, where at least 61 homes were destroyed.

While the disaster approached, police and recreation department personnel went knocking on doors across the shore and in flood-prone regions to warn people of the impending danger and urge them to evacuate. Schools were turned into shelters.Thousands of trees and telephone poles were destroyed.

The hurricane caused severe beach erosion on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, with south-facing coastal areas on both islands missing up to 50 feet of beach. Bob caused approximately $1.5 billion in damage, making it one of the most costly in New England’s history.

The Allen Harbor Yacht Club dock system failed in Harwich, smashing a number of boats onto the riprap along the side of Lower County Road.

A dangerous hurricane which left lengthy damage

At the Chatham Weather Station on Morris Island that afternoon, meteorologist John LaCorte reported a maximum gust of wind of 90 mph. In Chatham, the worst impact occurred in Stage Harbor, where around 70 boats came out from their moorings and ended up on the beach.

Bob delivered prolonged hurricane-force winds to almost all of southeast Massachusetts’ coastal towns. New England endured between 3 and 7 inches of heavy rain west of the storm, causing flooding. Winds and floods on the storm’s eastern side caused the most destruction.

At around 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 19, the eye of Hurricane Bob swept over Block Island, Rhode Island, as a Category 2 hurricane, prior to actually hitting land over Newport, Rhode Island, soon before 2 p.m., and proceeding over southeast Massachusetts.

It’s been 30 years since the Cape has been hit by a big hurricane in its entirety. There have been several close calls. This season, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration predicts 13 to 30 identified tropical storms in the Atlantic, with six to ten hurricanes, three to five of which will be dangerous hurricanes. The sixth named storm, Tropical Storm Fred, is expected to make landfall in the Gulf of Mexico this week, potentially around the Florida coast.

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