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Hurricane Bob hit Mass. 30 years ago this week

A woman ran for cover during Hurricane Bob along the waterfront at Woods Hole in Falmouth, Mass., on Aug. 19, 1991.Bill Greene/Globe Staff

Historically, this week has been a wild one for hurricanes in the New England region.

Thursday marks the 30-year anniversary of Hurricane Bob, which barreled into the Massachusetts coast on Aug. 19, 1991. It remains the last hurricane to make landfall in Massachusetts.

After swirling up the Eastern Seaboard, Bob caused $680 million in damage in New England, including $39 million in Massachusetts, officials said. The southeastern part of the state bore the brunt of the destruction, especially along Buzzards Bay.

People played in the high winds of Hurricane Bob at Nobska Point in Woods Hole, Mass., on Aug. 19, 1991.Bill Greene/Globe Staff

Tourists who had flocked to Cape Cod for a beach escape found a battered coastline — parts of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard lost 50 feet of sand. The winds riled up hordes of bees and wasps, whose angry stings filled emergency rooms.


But Bob’s not the only hurricane that’s battered our neck of the woods during the third week of August.

The National Weather Service reminded us Tuesday that hurricanes Diane and Connie made their presence felt days apart in August 1955.

“[On this date] in Weather History - August 17-19: In 1955 Hurricane Diane brought torrential rains from the Carolinas to S. New England,” the weather service tweeted. “Diane hit our area only [five] days after Hurricane Connie brought 4-6 inches of rain. The result was catastrophic flooding.”

Diane, forecasters said, claimed the lives of 77 people in Connecticut, 12 in Massachusetts, and one in Rhode Island. It caused the equivalent of roughly $7.4 billion in damages, in today’s dollars.

On Tuesday, the weather service provided a helpful primer on Diane and Connie.

“In little over a week, two hurricanes passed by Southern New England in August 1955 producing major flooding over much of the region,” the primer said. “Hurricane Connie produced generally 4-6 inches of rainfall over southern New England on August 11 and 12. The result of this was to saturate the ground and bring river and reservoir levels to above normal levels.”


Then came Diane, which hit even harder.

“Hurricane Diane came a week later and dealt a massive punch to New England,” forecasters wrote. “Rainfall totals from Diane ranged up to nearly 20 inches over a two day period. The headwaters of the Farmington River in Connecticut recorded 18 inches in a 24-hour period. Both of these accumulations exceeded records for New England. The same is true of much of the flooding that resulted from these massive rainfall amounts.”

Hurricane Bob, meanwhile, was the second named storm and first hurricane of the 1991 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Boats washed ashore near a wrecked dock at Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass., on Aug. 20, 1991, after Hurricane Bob.Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

“Bob crossed Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with the center moving between Boston and Scituate,” the weather service says on its website. “It then moved over Massachusetts Bay. The hurricane continued to weaken and began losing tropical characteristics as it passed just offshore of the southern coast of Maine and made landfall as a tropical storm near Rockland, Maine on August 20.”

Bob was a swiftly moving storm that forced tens of thousands of vacationers and residents from Connecticut to Maine to scurry to accommodations inland or shelters that were opened in hundreds of schools, churches, and community centers.

One hurricane-related fatality was reported, in Dorchester. Sonya Chambers, 19, died after being thrown from a car that hit a truck at Morton and Norfolk streets. The accident took place at an intersection where the traffic light had been knocked out by high winds.


Shelters began filling by late morning of the storm with more than 65,000 persons evacuated in Massachusetts.

Power outages were extensive. At least 375,000 customers were without electricity in Massachusetts the day of, 308,000 in Connecticut, and 206,000 in Rhode Island.

The storm damaged or destroyed hundreds of boats; snapped trees and sent some hurtling through houses; smashed windows; ripped the roofs off buildings, including a hotel in Provincetown; and triggered tidal surges that caused flooding in oceanfront communities.

Many people were stranded on islands, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, after ferry service to the mainland was canceled as the storm bore down.

Hurricane barriers in Providence and New Bedford were lowered amid Bob’s wrath to guard against building waves.

Traffic backed up for more than 10 miles at the Sagamore and Bourne bridges over the Cape Cod Canal as thousands tried to leave the resort area before the two spans were closed.

Bob also forced the closing of the Tobin Bridge in Boston as visibility grew severely limited and officials feared the span would begin to sway in the high winds. In Rhode Island, bridges connecting the Newport resort area to the mainland also were closed as the storm neared.

Maine’s most prominent evacuee during the storm was then-President George H.W. Bush, who ditched Vacationland for Washington, partly to deal with global affairs and partly to get away from his vulnerable oceanfront home in Kennebunkport.

Jeremiah Manion of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.