Bob Was Perhaps the SouthCoast’s Costliest Hurricane
On Saturday, August 17, 1991, my soon-to-be-wife and I enjoyed the Newport Jazz Festival at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island. We planned to then take the ferry to Martha's Vineyard for a mini-getaway on Sunday to return home to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on Tuesday.
Or so we thought.
The weather on that Saturday was as fine as any August day in southern New England – but there was a storm brewing.
Hurricane Bob, one of the costliest hurricanes ever in New England, was lurking to the south. We gambled that the storm would head out to sea as so many before it had. We boarded the ferry in New Bedford for two nights at an oceanfront bed and breakfast in Edgartown.
Hurricane Bob had a mind of its own, setting its sights on the coastline of Southern New England.
Bob made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane in Rhode Island twice on August 19, 1991, first on Block Island and then Newport. Bob was the first hurricane of the 1991 season and the only hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States that year.
According to Mass.gov, Hurricane Bob was "not among the worst in terms of wind speed or storm surge, the property damage totals alone secured a top-three spot" among the worst Massachusetts hurricanes of the 20th century.
Mass.gov says New England experienced $680 million in damage, $39 million in Massachusetts alone. Some estimates put damage totals at $1 billion.
Mass.gov says, "Most of southeast Massachusetts faced hurricane-force winds, with coastal communities in this area seeing sustained winds of 75-100 miles per hour." Brewster and Truro received wind gusts exceeding 125 miles per hour.
Sixty percent of residents of southeastern Massachusetts lost power due to the hurricane.
The storm surge in Buzzards Bay was 10-to-15 feet, destroying boats and homes and causing coastal erosion. Onset, Bourne and Wareham saw the worst surge at 12-to-15 feet.
More than 60 homes on Cove Street and Angelica Point in Mattapoisett, one of the hardest-hit communities, were destroyed in the storm.
The storm washed away the Schamonchi ferry docks on the Vineyard and New Bedford, extending our vacation by a day or two.
Bob is included on a list of the worst Massachusetts hurricanes of the 20th century, along with Hurricanes Carol and Edna in 1954 and the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.