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

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.

WA1KDD Report – March 2017

From Tom, WA1KDD, in Acushnet MA

A much colder than normal March here in the northern part of Acushnet, with below normal precipitation.  Snowfall was a little above normal for the month.  Cold and windy made go fly a kite out of the question.

March 2017 with a mean temperature of 34.6 degrees was slightly colder than any of the previous Winter Season months.  Winds gusted to over 40 mph three times during the month and almost half of the month saw winds gusting above 25 mph.  Plenty of pick up sticks.

The low barometer of 28.86″ during the March 14th. snow by rain by noon event at my location was the third lowest March barometer reading on my records.  The March 14th.Blizzard of 1993 saw a 28.50″ low barometer and a rain to snow event on March 8th.. 2005 saw 28.68″

March 2017 Acushnet, Mass.     41deg,44min N     70deg,55min W

Ave High     43.5 deg.  Ave Low     25.6 deg.  March Mean     34.8 deg. is 3.8 deg. below normal

High Temp     57 deg. on March 21st.  Low Temp     08 deg. on March 12th.

Days 0 or below     0

Total Precip.     3.71″ is 1.80″ below normal

Max 24hr. Precip.  1.53″ on March 14th.

Snowfall     9.0″ is 2.3″ above normal

Max 24hr. Snowfall     5.5″ on March 10th.

Total 2017 Precip.     12.51″ is 1.29″ below normal

Season Snowfall  (dec-mar)     46.3″

T-Storm Days     1

High Wind Gust     49mph on March 11th.

Heating Degree Days     952

Cooling Degree Days     0

High Barometer     30.53″ on March 24th.

Low Barometer     28.86″ on March 14th.

Tom Carr

WA1KDD Report – January 2017

From Tom, WA1KDD, Acushnet, MA

A warmer, wetter, and snowier than normal January 2017  here in the northern part of Acushnet.  The mean temperature of 34.8 degrees was 5.0 deg. above normal making it the warmest January since 2002 saw a mean of 36.1 deg..   A string of 8 days Jan. 21-28th never saw the temperature fall below the freezing mark.

The first 10 days of 2017 saw rain then snowy then cold producing 2.39″ of total precipitation including 19″ in the form of snow and single 1 deg. temps. on 2 mornings.  This was followed by more rain and wind with 3 days into the low 50’s and poof the snow was gone till the last day of the month.    A nor’easter lacking cold air filled the swamps with over 2.60″ of water during the final third of January.  It was our wettest month since December of 2015.

January 2017 Acushnet, Ma.      41deg,44min N     70deg,55min W

Ave High     41.9 deg. Ave Low     27.6 deg. Jan Mean    34.8 deg. is 5.0 deg. above normal High Temp    56 deg. on Jan. 12th. Low Temp    1 deg. on Jan 9-10th. Days 0 or below  0.

Total Precip.     6.27″ is 2.00″ above normal  Max 24 hr. Precip.    2.12 ” on Jan. 24th.Snowfall     21.3″ is 10.8″ above normal.  Max 24 hr. Snowfall    14.0″ on Jan. 7th.  Total 2017 Precip.    6.27″ is 2.00″ above normal.  Season Snowfall  ( dec – jan )   24.4″

T- Storm Days  0.    High Wind Gust     32 mph on Jan. 11th.  Heating Degree Days  946.  Cooling Degree Days  0.  High Barometer   30.69″ on Jan. 14th.  Low Barometer  29.19″ on Jan. 24th.

WA1KDD Report – December 2016

From Tom, WA1KDD, Acushnet, MA

A slightly colder than normal December 2016 here in Acushnet with below normal precipitation and snowfall.  It was the driest December since 2006.  Two meager snow events saw snow quickly change to rain.  It was another brown Christmas.  Several high wind advisory events produced 4″ pine branches down and a power outage at my location.  Only one day saw a little snow left on the ground at observation time.

The year 2016 was the driest in 36 years.  The driest year on my records is 1980 with only 36.94″.   2016 produced 41.06″ of precipitation.  The year was warmer than normal and a little snowier than normal.  The Summer Season of 2016 was the warmest on my records.

December 2016 Acushnet, Ma.    41deg,44min N     70deg,55min W Ave High     43.0 deg.

Ave Low     26.3 deg.

Dec Mean     34.7 deg. is 0.6 deg. colder than normal

High Temp    61 deg. Dec. 1st.

Low Temp    6 deg. on Dec. 16th.

Days 0 or below     0

Total Precip.    3.51″ is 1.34″ below normal

Max. 24hr. Precip.    0.96″ on Dec. 29th.

Snowfall    3.1″ is 4.1″ below normal

Max 24hr. Snowfall     2.3″ on Dec. 17th.

Total 2016 Precip.     41.06″ is 11.82″ below normal

Total 2016  Snowfall    42.0″ is 4.2″ above normal

T-Storm Days     0

High Wind Gust     44mph  on Dec. 15th.

Heating Degree Days    948

Cooling Degree Days    0

High Barometer     30.76″ on Dec. 26th.

Low Barometer     20.28″ on Dec. 29th.

The Year 2016

Ave High     62.9 deg.

Ave Low     43.6 deg.

2016 Mean    53.3 deg. is 2.1 deg. above normal

High Temp    97 deg. on Jul. 26th & Aug. 14th.

Low Temp    -10 below on Feb. 14th.

Days 0 or Below     2   is normal

Days 90 or  Above    20  is  13 above normal

Total 2016 Precip.     41.06″  is 11.82″ below normal

Max 24hr. Precip.     2.09″ on Oct. 9th.

Snowfall     42.0″  is 4.2″ above normal

Max 24hr. Snowfall     9″ on Feb. 5th.

Monthly Snowfall    Jan 11.1″ Feb 15.5″ Mar 3.3″ Apr 9.0″ Dec 3.1″

T-Storm Days    13   is 6 below normal

High Wind Gust     47 mph on Nov. 21st.

Heating Degree Days    5311

Cooling Degree Days    1015

High Barometer     30.76″ on Dec. 26th.

Low Barometer     29.10″  on Apr. 3rd.

Jan. warmer than norm, a bit drier, snowfall a bit above, 6.5″ on the 23rd.

Feb. warmer,wetter,snowier, coldest temp in decades minus 10 below on 14th.

Mar. much warmer than norm, below norm rain & snow, peepers on the 10th.

Apr. colder & drier than norm, above norm snow, 16 deg. on 6th. peach crop hit bad

May  warmer than norm, rain near norm with help from T.S.Bonnie moisture

Jun. driest in 17yrs. warmer than norm, no 90’s, nice month

Jul. hot & dry, 10 days 90 or plus, 6 day heat wave Jul 23-28th.

Aug. warmest on my records and dry, 9 days over 90, limp vegetation

Sep. warmer than norm, a bit dry, tease from T.S. Hermine early in the month

Oct. wettest month of 2016 and warm, moisture plume remnant from Hurr Matthew

Nov. a bit warmer and drier than normal, no snow

Dec. a bit colder & drier than norm, snow goes quick to rain, windy, a brown Christmas

WA1KDD Report – November 2016

From Tom, WA1KDD, Acushnet, MA

A warmer than normal November here in the northern part of Acushnet, with below normal precipitation.  It was the 10th. month this year averaging above normal temperature wise.  11 days saw temperatures 60 degrees or better.  November did not live up to being on average ( 4.86″ ) the second wettest month on my 37 years of record.  Only 1.05″ of rain had fallen during the first 28 days of the month.  1.90″ fell during the last 2 days to help fill the void. No snow fell at my location this November.

The Fall Season ( sep,oct,nov )  was above normal in temperature and below normal in precipitation.  A little windy at times but a nice Fall Season.

November 2016 Acushnet, Ma.      41 deg,44min N     70 deg,55min W

Ave High    55.2 deg.

Ave Low     35.0 deg.

Nov Mean     45.1 deg. is 0.8 deg. above normal

High Temp     68 deg. on Nov. 2nd.

Low Temp     25 deg. on Nov. 29th.

Days 0 or below     0

Total Precip.     2.95″ is 1.91″ below normal

Max 24hr. Precip.    1.35″ on Nov. 29th.

Total 2016 Precip.     37.55″ is 10.48″ below normal

T-Storm Days     0

High Wind Gust     47 mph. on Nov. 21st.

Heating Degree Days     605

Cooling Degree Days    0

High Barometer     30.42″ on Nov. 7th.

Low Barometer     29.30″ on Nov. 20th.

Fall Season ( sep,oct,nov )

Ave Temperature     56.1 deg. is 2.0 deg. above normal

Total Precipitation     12.11″ is 1.36″ below normal

Total Snowfall     0 is 1.1″ below normal

WA1KDD Report – October 2016

From Tom, WA1KDD, Acushnet, MA

A wetter and warmer than normal October 2016 here in the northernpart of Acushnet. October was the wettest month so far this year with 5.80″of rain falling at my location.  A moisture plume remnant from HurricaneMatthew helped quench our rain starved area on Oct. 9th. as 2.09″ fell.   A 10 day stretch of nice Fall weather followed with chill mornings warming into the 60’s then 70’s then beach day 80’s.  Unsettled conditions ended the last third of the month with wind and more welcomed rain.  A 28 deg. killing frost on the morning 27th. and the arrival of the snowbird Juncos on the 29th reminded us to prepare for the Winter ahead.

October 2016 Acushnet, Ma.      41 deg,44min N    70 deg,55min W

Ave High    65.5 deg.

Ave Low     45.9 deg.

Oct Mean     55.7 deg. is 2.1 deg. above normal

High Temp    82 deg. on Oct. 19th.

Low Temp     28 deg. on Oct. 27th.

Days 90 or above     0

Total Precip.    5.80″ is 1.40″ above normal

Max 24hr. Precip.    2.09″ on Oct. 9th.

Total 2016 Precip.    34.60″ is 8.57″ below normal

T-Storm Days    0

High Wind Gust    35 mph on Oct. 23rd.

Heating Degree Days    313

Cooling Degree Days    19

High Barometer    30.46″ on Oct. 11th.

Low Barometer     29.17″ on Oct. 22nd.