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Southern New England Climatology Highlights

Since 1900, Forty-Nine tropical systems have impacted Southern New England. Twenty-Five were hurricanes, while 18 were of tropical storm strength. Any tropical storm or hurricane is capable of bringing a combination of high winds, large storm surges and severe inland flooding along area rivers and streams.

Of the 25 hurricanes, 9 made landfall along the Southern New England coast. Of those 9 land-falling hurricanes, 7 were either of category 2 or 3 intensity based on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Though the primary threat to New England is during August and September. The region has been affected as early as June, and as late as mid October.

The worst storm of the century was the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, which struck on September 21st. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 struck at high tide, which coincided with the highest astronomical tide of the year, pushing a storm surge of 12 to 15 feet across the south coast and up the many bays and inlets including Narragansett and Buzzards Bays. Winds of over 120 mph blew across the coastal regions. The Blue Hill Observatory, in Milton MA, recorded a sustained 5-minute wind of 121 mph and a peak gust to 186 mph.

Parts of interior Connecticut and Massachusetts not only bore the brunt of high winds, but also experienced severe river flooding as rain from the hurricane combined with heavy rains earlier that week to produce rainfall totals of up to 17 inches. This resulted in some of the worst river flooding ever experienced in parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

This powerful storm caused 564 deaths and over 1,700 injuries. Nearly 9,000 homes and businesses were destroyed with over 15,000 damaged. The boating community was equally devastated with 2,600 boats destroyed and 3,300 damaged.

It is not uncommon for Southern New England to be impacted more than once in a given season. The area has been impacted by two or more tropical storms or hurricanes in one season a total of 11 times. The most notable season was 1954, when hurricanes Carol, Edna, and Hazel impacted our region.

Southern New England is in the unenviable position of receiving all three "hurricane threats":

  1. Coastal inundation due to the storm surge
  2. Widespread wind damage
  3. Widespread inland small stream and river flooding

The strongest hurricanes, such as the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 and hurricane Carol, have brought severe damage to coastal locations, while totally disrupting utility power for days across the interior from high winds. Both the stronger hurricanes and several of the weaker tropical storms have caused inland river flooding in various parts of Southern New England.

History clearly shows that everyone living in Southern New England must take tropical storms and hurricanes seriously. Whether you live along the coast, by a river or stream, or far inland, a tropical storm or hurricane striking New England will have a great impact on you and your local area.

Whenever a tropical storm or hurricane strikes, tune in the NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio for the latest information, 24 hours a day.



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