The "Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944" was first detected as a hurricane on September 9, 1944 and was the seventh storm of the season. On discovery, the storm position was to the northeast of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean and was moving to the west-northwest at around 16 mph. The storm intensified to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale on September 12th and remained at that strength until just before reaching Cape Hatteras. The storm continued on this track until September 13th, when it began curving to the north. The storm made initial landfall as a Category 3 storm, as it passed Cape Hatteras. From this point forward, the storm began to accelerate to the northeast to a speed in excess of 40 mph.
The hurricane made a second landfall on the eastern end of Long Island, NY. As the storm progressed northeastward, it passed to the north of Boston and then into the Gulf of Maine. The storm continued to accelerate rapidly to the east-northeast toward Nova Scotia on September 15th.
In Maine, the storm began as rain on the 14th at 4:00 PM. As the night progressed, the weather got gradually worse, and by 12:00 Midnight, torrential rains were falling. At 12:51 AM, Civil Defense authorities mobilized personnel and equipment to assist the emergency services. By 2:30 AM, the winds had reached 50 mph in the Auburn and Lewiston area. At 4:00 AM, the center of the storm passed only 50 miles from Portland and was headed northeast. By 4:33 AM, the all clear was sounded.
A total of 390 people died in the storm, 26 in New England, and 2 in Maine. In Bath, Maine, a 10 year old boy was electrocuted when he came into contact with downed wires and in Augusta, a 40 year old woman was run over by a bicyclist who was blinded by the heavy rains. Of the 390 people who died, 340 of them were lost on ships at sea. This storm ranks as the 7th deadliest hurricane in United States history..
The hurricane of 1944 also ranks as 23rd costliest of hurricanes to hit the United States with $925,055,000 in damages. These damages were adjusted to 1990 dollars. Maine received substantial damage throughout the state.
In Androscoggin County, 40% of the apple crop was destroyed by high winds. At Bates College, 4.34" of rain fell during the storm. The high winds and heavy rains caused several streets to become flooded, trees to be uprooted, limbs to be torn down, and widespread outages of electric and telephone service.
In Auburn, 2 barns were destroyed by the high winds. One located in West Auburn and the other located on North River Road. Seven cars were also damaged in the twin cities from falling trees and limbs. The sidewalks were damaged when the older trees that had substantial root systems fell over.
The winds in Portland reached 42 mph with gusts to 60 mph. The damage throughout the area was comparable to that done in Auburn and Lewiston. The heavy rains caused several rivers to rise, including the Little Androscoggin River in Mechanic Falls. This river rose 3 feet, but no flooding was reported.
The temperatures remained consistent throughout the storm as there was a high of 67 F and a low of 64 F, a range of only 3 degrees. At 6:30 AM, the barometric pressure indicated 29.08" Hg, but by that time the storm was almost over. The most intense part of the storm occurred between 2:30 AM and 4:30 AM.
This storm was different from the Hurricane of 38' in that there was plenty of advance warning. The media followed the storm extensively prior to the storm, and the civil defense officials were well informed of the storm's current position.
© Wayne Cotterly 2002