UP CLOSE with HURRICANE CAROL – AUGUST 31 ST. 1954

FAIRHAVEN, MASSACHUSETTS 

“Wharf Rats”, is the term probably used by the watchmen at the Pierce and Kilburn Shipyard in Fairhaven to describe the group of youngsters that hung out , on and under the long wooden pier and the ribs of decaying barges, in search for shiners and mumpers for bait and harassing the double-decker blue crabs that clung to the pilings.       

Aftermath of Hurricane Carol (1954)

It was 1954.  I was almost 14 and in a snapper blue fishing state of mind during the waning days of August and school vacation.       

Our peaceful antics were interrupted in the late afternoon and early evening of August 30th. by asudden increase in activity around the old rum-runner used as a dock by the shipyard.  Yachtsmen were working on the lines securing their boats.  Then the word ” Hurricane ” caught our ears. So thatswhat all this activity is about….hmmm       

My “Rollfast ” bicycle lived up to its name as I peddled eastward on Farmfield Street towards homein the Harbor View section of town.  I remember nothing unusual about the weather conditions that evening, even though the rides home were scary at times, as I was always looking skyward and overthe shoulder for flying saucers.  I had seen the movie, ” The Thing” through the button holes of my jacket.     

Home was a two family year round summer cottage, on a dirt toad they called an avenue and a goodstones throw and a half from the beach and the waters of Buzzards Bay in the southeastern part of Massachusetts.  My father and mother and younger sister and I lived there with a family of four as neighbors.  We had neither telephone nor television or hot water for that matter.  Communication werethe evening newspaper, The Standard Times and local radio stations WNBH and WBSM..     

Aftermath of Hurricane Carol (1954)

Droplets of water formed on the black painted metal window screening during the foggy muggy daysof summer, and sticky paper caught the flies that escaped the slamming stay-in or stay-out screen door.Uniform of the day was usually a bathing suit.  Salt marsh horse flies would chase you around the beachby day and the mosquitoes would chase you inside by night.  The last day of August 1954 would notbe a typical Summer day..      

Harbor View is a Summer colony that was “wiped out ” during the Great Hurricane of 1938 only tobe battered again by the Hurricane of 1944.  Cedar posts that once supported many a Summer cottageand piazza protruded out of the beach sand. Several newly constructed cottages on the beach displayedbig bay windows for a better view.      

Warnings of impending Hurricane Carol must have been lacking for I don’t recall any advancedpreparations for her visit. No boarding of window, no packing up of belongings, many folks didn’t evenown a car. Somehow though, the boat owners knew. Maybe it was on the wind, the waves, or the tide. I told my father of the goings on at the shipyard before hitting the hay.     

My dad must not have liked what he heard on the radio that Tuesday morning, August 31 st. forhe did not go to work. Events happened so quickly over the next few hours that all one could do wasreact to the wrath that Mother Nature had in store for us.      

I don’t recall much rain that morning. Maybe it had fallen overnight, for it was the wind that caughtour attention. Lightly it came from the East at first and then the wind steadily increased and veered intothe Southeast. We went to the beach, bent over in the gusts at times to secure our 12 ft. “Correia” builtskiff a little higher up from the rack line. We flipped the boat over and placed the rollers underneath itand tied it to one of the posts that dotted the beach.     

I helped a friend to round up his two dogs. We put the dogs inside an automobile that was in a garage,and we cracked the windows and closed the doors. I am surprised to see that the waves had broken overthe crown of the beach and the water was on its way towards the driveway as we shut the garage doors.     

The wires on the cross – armed telephone poles hummed, as I quickly headed some 50 yards towardshome. Priests Cove became an awesome mound of salt water that quickly flooded everything below ourlocation. We watched bottled propane gas tanks break away from a beach front cottage. They spiraled and spit as they floated away venting their contents. I could not believe my eyes as the cottage on the beachstarted to move and float away like a rudderless match box.     

Anxious now, my Father gathered the Family and said it was time to go. We headed out the door into water entering our yard, taking nothing but ourselves. Airborne roof shingles were chop-your-head-offfrightening as we struggled through backyards to reach Farmfield Street and higher ground. Thankfullyour neighbors hailed us into their closed-in front porch to wait out the storm.   

Track of Hurricane Carol – August 1954

 We ventured outside when it appeared safe, and watched the ocean surge rivers of water between the remaining cottages of Harbor View. It was the wind that caught our attention at first, but it was thewind driven storm surge that was the leveler. The debris acting as battering rams destroying cottages and garages on its way inland.     

It was afternoon before the ocean and wind receded enough to head back home. We were stunned tofind the front part and side of our cottage ripped open by Carol. A sandwich like roof-on -floor remains ofa beach front cottage in our front yard. The area looked like a war zone with our close neighbors wipedout. A debris field of more roof-on-floor remains lie in the marsh grass below the electric sub-station,along with an upside down but still intact “Correia” skiff.    Just rubble remained of the two cement block garages in the neighborhood. Somehow the dogs survived the sprung open door wreckage of a car now garaged by reeds in a field. WE are now dazed refugees of Mother Natures wrath. Neighbors are homeless and those that remain find miserable muckand salt water – but no utilities.   

Towards evening relatives from the North End of New Bedford arrived to offer help and they took my mother and sister back to the city with them. A neighbor knocked on the door offering one of her spare kerosene lanterns. My father and I stayed the course to make repairs and mop up.   

The National Guard arrived the next day, to protect against looters. They rapped on the side of thehouse on their evening patrols to see if everything was all right. Night time hollaring, of “Sargent of theGuard, Sargent of the Guard” was followed by I swear a shot or two during their stay.   

Sandwiches that arrived from the Salvation Army and Red Cross were delicious, considering thecircumstances. Several days went by before the town water was turned back on. It would be muchlonger before electricity was restored., as all the electric outlets in the cottage had to be replaced. 

The Hurricane leaves behind an odor of marsh and muck and salt-soaked-wood that lasted till the cold of late Fall. Some of the homeless neighbors rebuild in Harbor View, others were never seen again.     

School would start late that year, but Mother Nature had already taught me a lesson that I will neverforget. Any Hurricane eye that puts a stare on Southeastern Massachusetts still bristles the hair of thoseof us who got up and close to Carol.

73’s Tom Carr, WA1KDD – Acushnet, MA. 2020

*This article was originally published in 2004 in a local newspaper.

AB2ZO Silent Key

Frank J. Tomesch
(1945-2020)

Poughkeepsie – Frank J. Tomesch, 74, passed away at home on, Sunday, February 16, 2020, surrounded by his loving family. The son of the late Frank A. and Joan S. Valla Tomesch, he was born on November 3, 1945 in Little Ferry, NJ. On August 11, 2001, he married Lisa H. Andersen in Tarrytown, NY, she survives at home. Frank served his country as a Lieutenant in the United States Army during the Vietnam War era and was employed with Metropolitan Life in NYC as a computer programmer. Being remembered as an amateur radio enthusiast, he was a member of the Overlook and Mount Beacon Amateur Radio Clubs and an official observer for the National Weather Service for Poughkeepsie. Frank also belonged to the Sons of Norway, the New England Weather Net, and also a member of the ROTC at St. Peter’s College. Frank is survived by his daughter, Johanna Tomesch and her companion Miles Uchida, both of Portland, OR, his stepson, Seth A. Pierzkor of Orlando, FL, his brother John Tomesch and wife Kristine of Succasunna, NJ, as well as several nieces and nephews. Calling hours will be held on Friday, February 21, 2020, from 4:00pm – 8:00PM, at the Wm. G. Miller & Son Funeral Home, Inc. 371 Hooker Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY 12603. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered on Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:00AM, at the Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel, 185 Hudson View Dr. Poughkeepsie, NY 12601. Burial will take place at a later date in the Gerald R. Solomon National Cemetery, 200 Duell Road, Schuylerville, NY 12871 with military honors. The family suggests in lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Frank’s name to St. Peter’s Church. If you wish to send an online condolence please visit our website at www.wmgmillerfuneralhome.

Hurricane Carol, Cape Cod, August 31, 1954

By Henry Brown, K1WCC

The boatyard in the picture was across the harbor from where I lived in 1954. Colin MacDougall W1TJW (sk) was a well known local ham who ran the electronics shop there. The boat shed was normally way out of the water.

I can remember being 8 years old, ready to start Third Grade in the Village School in Falmouth. We lived a few hundred yards from the ocean. The night before the storm, we had a cookout for my cousin who had just returned from serving in the Army. I can remember the sky looking strange that evening, and people commenting about it at the cookout. Then, my parents went to the movies while my aunt and cousin babysat for us. I can remember it raining very hard that night-I must have woken up when my parents came home from the movies.

The track of Hurricane Carol August 25 – September 1, 1954

The next morning I woke up to a gray, windy and rainy day. My bedroom was in the southwest corner of the house and there was a weeping willow tree next door. It was blowing and flailing away and looked like a giant hand had pushed it down against the ground. What was really significant, after getting up, was seeing my father home. He always went to work before I got up and it was unusual for him to be home so I knew something was up. He was huddled over the old RCA table radio in the kitchen and said we were about to get a hurricane, a new word for me.

Edgewood Yacht Club in Rhode Island. The club house survived Hurricane Carol in spite of the high storm surge.

The rest of the day was dramatic. Our neighbor Bruce Pease was the Water Department foreman and he was out at Woods Hole trying to do something with the sewer pumping station there. His wife was at our house. We lost power so my father made a blowtorch stove with firebricks for hot coffee and soup. I can still remember seeing that stove making soup. At about 11 AM or so, my father took me in his Chevy pickup and we drove down Swing Lane towards Falmouth Inner Harbor, a very short distance. The water was up the road about 100 yards so we left the truck there and walked over to Tom Richard’s house on Scranton Avenue. It was very windy with driving rain-I couldn’t stand. When we got to the Richards’, the water was swirling around Scranton Avenue and up to my chest. I had played in this area most of my young life and it was always dry land. It was shocking to
see water everywhere. We helped a few people with their boats but I remember a chaotic scene-there wasn’t much people could do.

Storm surge damage from Hurricane Carol at Westerly, RI.

Later, the storm was over by late afternoon and it had cleared up. We took a walk to the harbor in the early evening. We walked down Swing Lane and in front of the Swing’s driveway was the square, peaked roof of the old “Hurricane Deck” restaurant, just sitting there. Apparently, the battering waves and storm surge had pushed it there. I can remember wires hanging down, leaves everywhere, junk everywhere and white houses tuning yellow from the gases churned up from the harbor bottom. They just slowly turned yellow! We walked to the old Hurricane Deck location, where the Regatta condos are now, and picked up a few pieces of silverware. The place was completely wrecked. I remember a fully armed and helmeted soldier came over to see what we were doing-the National Guard was guarding the area. The harbor was full of upside down boats, some with just masts sticking up. We walked down to Wormelle’s Boatyard, saw more devastation there, and walked home up Mr. Phillips’ road and through Peases’ yard. Our house had cheery lights in the window so we figured the power was back on, but my Mom had lit a large number of old kerosene lamps and it was bright inside. We all sat around in the house with some neighbors, and my father said “I hear there’s going to be another big blow tonight”. That sent shivers up and down my spine, but it was only a rumor he had heard on our walk. (like they say, don’t listen to rumors!) Without a radio we were out of touch, and no one really understood the storm tracks like we do today. Later that night we got power back, since we were on the Main Street circuit, and businesses needed to be up and Running.

Storm surge from Hurricane Carol in Connecticut.

The next morning we took a ride. It was a beautiful day and I remember being stunned by the wreckage along the water. I always took the beach roads at Surf Drive, Menahaunt and Falmouth Heights for granted, as solid objects. Now they were gone, just rubble and sand. The beach houses along Surf Drive were either in Salt Pond or on the other side of the pond. Telephone poles were down or leaning at crazy angles. Big houses were destroyed or horribly mutilated. People were beginning to dig out and rebuild: to me, it looked like it would take forever. But it didn’t.

Surface weather analysis of Hurricane Carol on August 31, 1954

Hurricane Edna arrived a couple of weeks later, on September 11. I don’t remember too much about that one. It was an afternoon storm. We were in our upstairs bedroom watching the heavy rain hit the roof of the house next door. It was so hard it made a “fog” over the roof. Later, my father called the police and they suggested that we leave the house since it was close to the water, so we went to my grandparent’s house on Oakwood Avenue, about a mile inland. There were lots of family members there and that’s all I remember.

Hurricane Carol destroyed this boat in Marblehead Harbor. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Editor’s Note: Hurricane Carol Facts

  • Recorded maximum sustained winds: 115 mph, Gust 125 mph
  • Storm Surge: 14 feet
  • Lowest Pressure: 955 mbar, 28.2 inHg
  • 72 fatalities
  • $462 million damage including 40% of crops destroyed
  • Estimated 10,000 homes, 3500 cars, 3000 boats destroyed
  • The name “Carol” was retired from the list of storm names.

Hurricane Carol destroyed thousands of automobiles like this one. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Storm surge damage after Hurricane Carol

Paper Production, Ice Crystals, and Light Pillars

Here in the northern Maine community of Madawaska we are accustomed to cold weather. This year (2019) at the W1AYX weather station we recorded our first sub-zero temperatures of the season on November 18 at -1 F and again on December 2 with a low of -3 F.

In the early morning hours of December 2nd, I was greeted with an interesting sight that occurs here several times a year during the cold dark months. It is a phenomenon known in meteorological terms as “light pillars.”

Conditions have to be just right to produce these beautiful streams of light that seem to reach upward into the sky. This takes place when it is dark, the air is very cold, the local pulp and paper mills are expelling hefty amounts of steam, the air is calm, and artificial light sources are turned on.

The science behind “light pillars” is fairly simple. The large amount of water vapor being expelled into the air from the local paper mills cools rapidly and changes to ice crystals that begin to fall back toward the earth. These tiny, usually flat hexagonal, ice crystals act as mirrors reflecting light back toward their source thus producing an optical illusion of sorts that makes it appear as if pillars of light are reaching up into the heavens.

Below are some photos from the morning of December 2, 2019 (Outside Temp. -3 F) showing our Madawaska light pillars. These pictures were taken by a friend, Chris Michaud, who lives here in Madawaska. Check out his Facebook page for more spectacular photos of northern Maine.

Light Pillars in Madawaska, Maine on December 2, 2019. Photo credit : Chris Michaud
Light Pillars in Madawaska, Maine on December 2, 2019. Photo credit : Chris Michaud
Light Pillars in Madawaska, Maine on December 2, 2019. Photo credit : Chris Michaud
Steam from the Twin Rivers Paper Mill in Madawaska, Maine – Photo Credit: Chris Michaud
Steam from the Twin Rivers Pulp Mill in Edmundston, NB – Photo Credit: Chris Michaud

Keep looking up!

Jack, W1AYX – Psalm 19:1-3

64 years and 20,000 sessions!

The New England Weather Net was founded in 1955 with the mission of gathering weather observations from around the greater New England region. The net has operated six days a week (Monday thru Saturday) continuously since that time. This Thursday, November 21, 2019 marks a milestone with session 20,000.

Thank you to all who have participated both in recent years and through out the net’s history. The New England Weather Net remains strong and committed to gathering each morning to share weather data.

Here is the recording from Session #20,000:

Next stop… Session 30,000 in 2051.

73’s

Jack Caron, W1AYX, Net Manager

Bonus: Here is a recording from Session 10,000 from December 12, 1987:

A Simple Way of Measuring Snow Water Equivalent

Winter is not far away. Soon we’ll be asked to measure the depth of new snow as well as the total depth of snow on the ground. But it is equally important to measure the water equivalent of both the new snow and that of the total snow on the ground. One of our former members, Rob Lyons (AB1NJ now SK), led me down the path to a very simple way of measuring water content of snow. Simply use your 4” diameter cylinder to take a core sample of the snow, new or total, and weigh it in ounces and divide the weight by 0.72 to get the water content in inches of the snow.


This sounds like a lot of bother but it is really very easy, much easier than trying to melt the snow and measuring the water content directly. The best way to do it is to set up a “snow table”, a piece of plywood on top of a bucket and push the 4” cylinder down through the snow and then slip a spatula under it, turn the cylinder over, and you have a core sample of the snow.


To weigh the core sample you need a scale. Before you take the core sample of snow weigh the 4” cylinder to get the fare weight that you will subtract from the core sample. There is a very accurate and inexpensive scale available on Amazon or at Walmart (under $20):

American Weigh Scales Blade Series Digital Precision Pocket Weight Scale, Black, 1000 x 0.1G (BL-1KG-BLK)


Buy one that has a 1 KG capacity (see below). The table below shows the weight -> volume of water of snow. Be sure to subtract the tare weight of the 4” cylinder.

1921 Solar Event May Have Been Bigger than Carrington Event

From ARRL Letter – September 26, 2019 – http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter?issue=2019-09-26

Scientific American reports that, according to new data, the “New York Railroad Storm” of 1921 may have surpassed the intensity of the famous Carrington Event of 1859. In his paper published in the journal Space Weather, Jeffrey Love of the US Geological Survey and his colleagues reexamined the intensity of the 1921 event in greater detail than previously.

Although different measures of intensity exist, geomagnetic storms are often rated on an index called disturbance storm time (Dst) — a way of gauging global magnetic activity by averaging out values for the strength of Earth’s magnetic field measured at multiple locations. Earth’s baseline Dst level is about -20 nanoteslas (nT), with a “superstorm” condition occurring when levels fall below -250 nT. Studies of the very limited magnetic data from the Carrington Event peg its intensity at anywhere from -850 to -1,050 nT. According to Love’s study, the 1921 storm came in at about -907 nT.

Peter Ward in his 2017 New York History Blog article “Strange Phenomena: The New York Railroad Storm” recounted that theatre-goers in New York City “marveled at the spectacle” of an iridescent cloud that was brighter than the moon. “On the roof of the Times Building, reporters, having discovered the telegraph lines to be curiously blocked, gathered to watch the aerial kaleidoscope,” he wrote.

As with the earlier Carrington Event, telegraph operators experienced wild fluctuations in the current on their circuits, while wireless propagation was enhanced. “The next day, papers reported that the Central New England railroad station (also home to the telegraph switchboard) had burned to the ground.” Railroad officials later blamed the fire on the aurora.

According to Ward’s article, the lights were visible in New York, California, and Nevada. Especially in rural areas, “the lights were said to be brighter, appear closer to the ground, and even move with a swishing sound.”

Railroad and telegraph service were restored the following week, although one Western Union transatlantic cable showed signs of damage. “Delays and damage lead to some referring to it as the New York Railroad Storm,” Ward wrote.

A dramatic description of the event on the SolarStorms.org website said, “At 7:04 AM on May 15, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th Street was put out of operation, followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue.”

The short article said a telegraph operator reported being driven away from his station by flames that enveloped his switchboard and set the building on fire. “In Sweden a telephone station was reported to have been ‘burned out,’ and the storm interfered with telephone, telegraph, and cable traffic over most of Europe,” the article said.

Record Hailstone in Colorado

From Colorado Climate Center: Along with the National Weather Service office in Goodland, today we measured the hailstone that fell NW of Bethune, CO on Tuesday, 13 August. The maximum diameter was 4.83″, which exceeds the long-standing state record of 4.5″. Photos show that it was even larger when it fell (and was about 30 mins between when it fell and was put in the freezer), so there is still work to do to formalize and finalize the values. But it’s clear that this will be a new record for Colorado!