Hurricane, Tornado & Microburst Preparedness

According to Zielinski and Keim in New England Weather, New England Climate (See Yankee Skywarn Library) “Without a doubt, the 1938 hurricane is the standard by which all other New England hurricanes are measured. Hurricanes were not labeled until1950, with the use of people's names originating in 1953. The 1938 storm was responsible for over six hundred deaths and $3.4 billion in damage (in 1998 dollars) in New England. Most of lives lost were due to the storm surge and waves along the Rhode Island coast, and particularly the storm surge up Narragansett Bay...The curious fact about the 1938 hurricane is that the National Weather Service (NWS) failed to realize how strong the storm actually was. This is despite the warnings of a junior meteorologist at the NWS and the exceptionally low barometer readings from a ship close to Florida at the time the storm was in that area of the ocean.”

One of the earliest storms to affect colonial New England was “The Great Colonial Hurricane” of late August, 1635. In his 1965 book Early American Hurricanes, 1492 to 1870, the late David M. Ludlum analyzes historical records to determine the strength and the path of hurricanes. It is interesting to follow the process he used to determine that this hurricane, which sunk the bark Archangel Gabriel at Pemaquid in Maine, followed a track similar to the 14 September 1944 hurricane and Edna on 11 September 1954, taking a glancing blow on Massachusetts before making landfall in Maine. This was before the Saffir-Simpson scale (see Wikipedia article here) but it must have been at least category 3 because the accounts speak of “whole forests being leveled”. Other storms Ludlum describes are those in New England of 1638, 1675, 1727, the "snow hurricane" of 1804, and those in 1815 and 1869. More recent storms affecting New England are: Diane, 1955; the 1938 storm; Carol, 1955; Bob, 1991; along with the 1944 storm.

Below is from the Maine Prepares Hurricane! Web Site here.

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone in which winds reach sustained speeds of 74 miles per hour (category 1) or more and blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center (the "eye"). Hurricanes produce damage and destruction from heavy rainfalls, winds, and flooding.

In Maine, hurricanes don't happen often but they can be devastating when they do. Recent storms that had impact on Maine are: Carol and Edna in 1954, Donna in 1960, Gloria in 1985, and Bob in 1991.

One of the most common disaster preparation mistakes is that people do not prepare while the sun is shining. When disaster is approaching everyone is after the same resources and they quickly become scarce. Lines are long, traffic is bad, and tempers are short. Start now to put together your disaster supply kit. If you have children involve them in the game of finding items on your list. Prepare now, it’ll take less time.

Some hurricane preparedness considerations:

  • Plan where you will go and how you will get there if you have to evacuate.
  • Have two evacuation routes not subject to flooding
  • Know whether you home could be subject to flooding. Contact your town or county emergency management agency if you’re not sure.
  • Purchase flood insurance if your home could possibly flood. Homeowner's insurance does not cover floods.
  • Plan for the safety of your pets. Most shelters do not accept pets.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Alert Radio
  • Talk with other family members about your plan especially if you have special needs or mobility limitations
  • If you own a boat have a hurricane plan for it
  • Contact your local or county emergency management agency or American Red Cross chapter if you have questions

Two hurricane tracking maps from NOAA are available for download. Large scale Atlantic map here and smaller scale Atlantic basin map here.

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