Metro

58 years ago: Hurricane Donna wreaked havoc in New England

The Globe’s front page on Sept. 13, 1960.
Boston Globe
The Globe’s front page on Sept. 13, 1960.

Hurricane Florence, a Category 3 storm, is expected to hit the southeastern coast of the United States in the coming days. Fifty-eight years ago, on Sept. 12, 1960, New England was in a similar situation, as Hurricane Donna wreaked havoc on the region, forcing approximately 12,000 residents to evacuate their homes along the coast.

“The storm, touted earlier as one of the most dangerous ever to hit the East Coast . . . packed power enough to leave widespread misery and damage behind,” according to a Boston Globe article from Sept. 13, 1960.

Donna’s “biting, stinging attack” killed five people in New England, including four in Massachusetts, according to a Globe article. Dozens more were injured, and thousands were left homeless.

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The last hurricane to make landfall in New England was Hurricane Bob in 1991, which hit the coast as a Category 2 hurricane, according to Lenore Correia, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

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“If [hurricanes] make landfall, they’re going to cause considerable damage,” Correia said.

And Donna did.

The Category 1 storm poured up to 4 inches of rain on the coast and up to 6 inches of rain on inland areas, helping to raise the tides to 12 feet above the normal levels in parts of Cape Cod, according to the NWS and Globe records.

Donna’s winds were also cause for concern at the time, as they triggered widespread power outages and damaged about 200 boats in Narragansett Bay and Warwick Cove in Rhode Island, according to the NWS.

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Weather observers at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton recorded wind gusts of up to 140 miles per hour around 6 p.m. on Sept. 12, 1960, when the eye of the storm was moving north. By around 8 p.m., Donna had passed through New Hampshire and reached Maine, according to the Globe article.

The effects of Donna’s strength could even be felt underground, as the Metropolitan Transit Authority limited subway service that afternoon. Flights out of Logan International Airport were suspended between 4 and 9:10 p.m., and Greyhound and Short Line bus trips were delayed, according to another Globe article from the day after Donna struck land.

Donna, as one reporter put it, caused “heartbreak to those who saw the rampage of runaway seas inundating their homes, beating their cottages to watery destruction and splintering their boats against sea walls.”

Andres Picon can be reached at andres.picon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andpicon.