Since the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, the area was spared from destruction. However, in 1954, things got decidedly worse as the area was hit by two hurricanes only 10 days apart. The first of these hurricanes to hit New England was Carol.
Hurricane Carol formed as a tropical storm near the Bahamas on August 25th from a tropical depression centered there over the previous week. The storm began to move northwest at a rate of 12 mph, but upper level winds began to weaken, and the storm gradually slowed. As the storm moved over the warm waters of the Caribbean, it intensified until it became a hurricane two days later. The storm continued to intensify, and had slowed its forward speed to only 1-2 mph. When hurricanes slow like this, they tend to drift erratically.
Between August 27th and August 29th, the storm drifted to the northwest, curving more to the west, and then making a sharp turn to the north and northeast. On August 30th, the storm was located off the coast of South Carolina. But later that day, the storm began to be influenced by a deep trough moving toward the eastern seaboard.
By late on August 30tht, the storm had accelerated to a forward speed of 40 mph, and was moving toward New England. The Weather Bureau had predicted that the storm would affect Long Island, NY in the Afternoon of the 31st, but the east coast trough deepened, and the storm maintained its rapid movement to the northeast. At one point, while the storm was off the coast of New Jersey, the storm's forward speed was calculated at 60 mph.
The storm made its landfall on Long Island, New York with winds approaching 120 mph. The tides were high, and the results were similar to the Hurricane of 1938. As the eastern, most dangerous semi-circle crossed southern New England, it caused extensive damage, and a storm surge of 10 to 15 feet. Some areas reported storm surges higher than in 1938.
The eye of the storm passed over Groton, Connecticut, at 10 AM on the 31st, and continued to cut a path through central New England. As many as 4000 cottages were destroyed from Westerly, Rhode Island eastward to Sakonnet Point. At 10:30 AM, the Boston Weather Bureau issued a Hurricane Warning for coastal New England, but it was already too late as coastal residents had only minutes to prepare for the storm.
Carol wreaked havoc across southern New England as it swept away cottages, restaurants, and boatyards. Though the storm was weaker than the Hurricane of 38', it was the worst storm in the history of Cape Cod.
Even though the storm was moving inland, it was not yet through with its destruction. In Maine, winds were clocked at 80 mph at the Augusta airport, 75 mph at the State Capitol, and 70 mph in Portland. Wind was not the only factor in the storm, as a total of 2.15 inches of rain fell on the Twin Cities in less than 12 hours. The rain began at 5:05 PM on the 31st and ended at 4:55 PM on the 1st. This according to records at the Union Water Power Company in Lewiston. The peak of the storm was felt between 3:30 PM and 5:30 PM on August 31st.
Damage from the storm was estimated to be close to $10 million dollars. The highest ever to occur from a natural disaster. Ironically, that record would be broken only 10 days later by Hurricane Edna. Governor Burton Cross declared a state of emergency as the apple crop was all but ruined.
In Windham, a large lumber shed at L.C. Andrew Company was destroyed. In Farmington, a large elm fell onto a house causing extensive damage. In Norway and South Paris, the story was the same as the rest of the region, as several trees were knocked down, and some homes damaged by falling trees. Power was out between 2 PM on Tuesday the 31st and 4 AM the next day.
Here in Androscoggin County, the damage was tremendous. Photographs of the area showed whole trees uprooted, telephone poles knocked down, houses damaged, cars crushed, and damage to other structures. The storm caused widespread power outages and disrupted telephone service. Hospitals lost power, and emergency services were kept busy throughout the storm.
In North Livermore, several hundred acres of corn were flattened, and apple orchards were virtually stripped of their crop. Roads throughout the area were made impassable from tree branches and utility lines. Lisbon was also hit hard with the greatest number of wires downed in the area.
The storm took as many as 60 lives during its trip along the coast. This ranks the storm as the 19th deadliest in U.S. History. Three people in Maine were killed, and several others were injured. One incident In Columbia Falls, took the life of a 60 year old woman from New Brunswick, when two automobiles collided at the height of the storm. Four others were injured in the crash.
In Auburn, a 17 year old boy was injured when he was struck in the back by a large tree limb. In Lewiston, a firefighter had 2 fingers severely crushed while attempting to secure a Coca-Cola sign on Lisbon Street. In Gray, a 61 year old woman re-fractured a broken leg while she was fleeing a fire that had broken out in her home. The fire started when a tree fell onto the house.
In the Twin Cities, hundreds of trees were reported uprooted, and many sidewalks were damaged from their root systems. Electrical and telephone service was disrupted as tree branches fell like match sticks. Water mains were also broken by the roots of fallen trees.
Houses were damaged by trees in several locations as were many cars. A Fire Truck in Lewiston was damaged by a falling tree limb while responding to a home that had been struck by a large tree on Main Street. In Lewiston, the City Park and Bates College Campus were littered with fallen trees and branches.
Firemen in Auburn were kept busy throughout the storm responding to several small electrical fires and sparking wires. No serious fires were reported. Off duty policemen were also called into work as well as the Civil Defense auxiliary police and the American Legion police unit. Civil Defense personnel had been alerted by the State CD headquarters in the morning, and were well prepared.
Six counties were declared a disaster area by the Small Business Administration in Washington. These counties were York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, and Waldo counties. A preliminary estimate by the Agriculture Department placed the damage of the apple crop close to $1.7 Million dollars.
In 1990 dollars, the total storm damage from Carol
was $2,370,215,000 dollars, the 10th most costliest hurricane in
U.S. history. As residents were cleaning up from Carol, Hurricane
Dolly was moving closer to New England. Thankfully, the storm moved
out to sea south of New England. However, mother nature was not
through yet. Edna, a much less noticed storm was brewing in the
Atlantic, and would strike the area only 10 days later.
Copyright 1997-2002, Wayne Cotterly