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Hurricane Carol

CAT 3 - August 31, 1954

On the morning of August 31, Hurricane Carol, the most destructive hurricane to strike Southern New England since the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, came crashing ashore near Old Saybrook, Connecticut, leaving 65 people dead in her wake. Carol had developed in the Bahamas several days earlier, making only slow progress northward. Carol began her rapid acceleration during the evening of August 30, while passing just east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Carol made landfall on eastern Long Island and southeastern Connecticut about 12 hours later, moving at over 35 mph.

Sustained winds of 80 to 100 mph roared through the eastern half of Connecticut, all of Rhode Island, and most of eastern Massachusetts. Scores of trees and miles of power lines were blown down. Strong winds also devastated crops in the region. Nearly 40 percent of apple, corn, peach, and tomato crops were ruined from eastern Connecticut to Cape Cod. Several homes along the Rhode Island shore had roofs blown completely off due to winds which gusted to over 125 mph. The strongest wind ever recorded on Block Island, Rhode Island occurred during Carol when winds gusted to 135 mph. The National Weather Service in Warwick, Rhode Island recorded sustained winds of 90 mph, with a peak gust of 105 mph. Lowest recorded pressure was at Suffolk County Airport on the south shore of Long Island with a reading of 28.36. Block Island reported 28.51 while Quonset Airport in North Kingstown, Rhode Island reported 28.72.

Hurricane Carol arrived shortly after high tide, causing widespread tidal flooding. Storm surge levels ranged from 5 to 8 feet across the west shore of Connecticut, and from 10 to 15 feet from the New London area eastward. Storm tide profiles show, as in 1938, how dramatically the tides increased just before landfall across Narragansett Bay, the Somerset, Massachusetts area and in New Bedford, Massachusetts Harbor. Narragansett Bay and New Bedford Harbor received the largest surge values of over 14 feet in the upper reaches of both water ways. On Narragansett Bay, just north of the South Street Station site, the surge was recorded at 14.4 feet, surpassing that of the 1938 Hurricane. However, since Hurricane Carol arrived after high tide, the resulting storm tide was lower.

Coastal communities from central Connecticut eastward were devastated. Entire coastal communities were nearly wiped out in New London, Groton, and Mystic, Connecticut, as well as from Westerly to Narragansett, Rhode Island. Once again, as in the 1938 Hurricane, downtown Providence, Rhode Island was flooded under 12 feet of water.

Rainfall amounts ranged from 2 to 5 inches across most of the area. The heaviest amounts, up to 6 inches, occurred in the New London, Connecticut area in the vicinity of landfall, and across extreme north central Massachusetts.

Hurricane Carol destroyed nearly 4,000 homes, along with 3,500 automobiles and over 3,000 boats. All of Rhode Island, much of eastern Connecticut and much of eastern Massachusetts lost electrical power. In addition, as much as 95 percent of all phone power was interrupted in these locations.

This information was taken from "Southern New England Tropical Storms and Hurricanes, A Ninety-eight Year Summary 1909-1997", by David R. Vallee and Michael R. Dion, National Weather Service, Taunton, MA.

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