WORK crews in Northeastern states are cleaning up damage inflicted by hurricane Bob, a fast-moving storm that swept up the Atlantic Coast Aug. 19 with winds as high as 125 m.p.h.The hurricane, which made its first New England landfall in southern Rhode Island, downed power lines, uprooted trees, broke windows, and caused severe flooding. Although the storm was rated as a Category 3 hurricane on a scale of one to five, damage was relatively mild. However, in addition to knocking out power to more than a million people in its traipse up the East Coast, the storm caused at least one fatality. A New York City conductor was killed when her commuter train struck a tree that had blown across the tracks. The Metro-North Commuter Railroad train had left Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal and was traveling north at 60 m.p.h. when it struck the tree that had fallen across the tracks minutes earlier. The tree tore through the door of the train's first car and struck the woman conductor. Also, a search was underway for a Long Island youth who disappeared in the surf off Great Gun Beach on eastern Long Island while swimming.
Portland soggy The storm left a soggy mark on Portland, Maine, which recorded 7.74 inches of rain - the most in New England - by 8 p.m. Aug. 20. There were reports of 90 m.p.h. winds in Kittery and 70 m.p.h. in Portland. Southeastern Massachusetts and southern Rhode Island were the hardest hit by the storm. Trees were uprooted and broken, roads were blocked, and homes and businesses lost power. "There's a lot of damage out there ... a lot of damage to power lines," said George Buttrick, assistant operations officer with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Many power outages There were an estimated 700,000 to 750,000 power outages in homes and businesses throughout Massachusetts, according to Mr. Buttrick. "The big damage here is the damage the trees have done and the power outages," he said. Hurricane warnings were in effect most of Aug. 19 from New Haven, Conn., to Eastport, Maine. Governors in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island declared states of emergency. Maine Gov. John McKernan Jr. (R) declared a state of emergency in eight coastal counties. Thousands were evacuated from low-lying areas throughout the region. "This is totally disrupting the traffic patterns in the state," said Dick Bouchard, deputy director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. "So it will be a little while before we recover from this." Traffic was heavy on Cape Cod, particularly at the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. Vacationers decided to leave the Cape instead of seeking shelter, causing traffic backups as long as 10 miles at the bridges, said Douglas Forbes, public information officer for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Bridges closed Due to strong winds, the two bridges were later closed part of the day. An estimated 6,500 people were sent to about 50 different evacuation centers throughout Massachusetts, Buttrick said. All nonessential state employees in Massachusetts were told to leave by 11 a.m. Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn also ordered all nonessential city employees to be sent home and urged Boston residents to remain indoors. Some city commuter rail lines were shut down, and drivers were warned not to use the Tobin Bridge. The American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay assisted families with food and shelter. The agency opened nine shelters at schools and provided services to 350 evacuees in coastal communities. It will provide disaster assistance over the next few days, said Renita Hosler, Red Cross public information officer. "We're looking at the situation to see what type of damage there is," she said. Hurricane Bob originated in the Bahamas, passed over Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, and worked its way up the New England coast, hitting Block Island in southern Rhode Island in early afternoon Aug. 19. Meteorologists predicted the storm might pass directly through Boston. According to Jack Beven, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the eye of the storm passed east of Boston and worked its way up east to Portland, Maine. The storm, continuing to weaken, then headed toward Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Hurricanes in the Northeast are not as common as those along the Southeastern coast, Mr. Beven says. But those that do come this way "tend to be rather intense and move fast." New England's cold coastal waters tend to slow down hurricane winds, he notes.
Similarity to Gloria Hurricane Bob followed a pattern similar to that of Hurricane Gloria in 1985. That storm forced the evacuation of thousands of people but caused little damage. In 1954, Hurricane Carol hit New England with 135 m.p.h. winds, causing several fatalities as well as major road and property damage. "The fact that New England sticks out as it does means we have a little vulnerability to hurricanes," says Bob Thompson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Logan Airport. "Every year or two we have to deal with a potential threat."