Hurricane Donna began as a tropical depression off the coast of Africa on August 29th, and began moving to the west at a speed of 27 mph. By August 30th, the storm had slowed to only 14 mph, but had intensified to tropical storm strength, thereby becoming the fourth named storm of the season. The storm continued to intensify as it moved west-northwest. On September 1st, the storm had become a hurricane and was now located well to the east of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. As the storm moved toward warmer waters, it intensified to a Category 5 hurricane, the highest level on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. It remained this intensity, hitting the northern Leeward Islands of Barbuda and Antigua head on.
Donna had then lost some of its intensity, gradually decreasing to a Category 3 just north of Puerto Rico. As the storm approached Puerto Rico, it began to move more toward the northwest and then back again to the west, making a beeline for the northern Cuban coast. By September 9th, the storm had regained some of its strength and was now a Category 4 storm as it brushed along the coast of Cuba. Later that day, the storm began to curve more toward Florida, and hit the Key's head on packing 138 mph winds.
As the storm passed Marathon, Florida, it began to curve to the north, and then the northeast, passing directly over Naples, Florida. As the storm moved back across Florida, it had lost most of its strength, but was still a Category 2 hurricane. From this point on, the storm took a direct track northeast, headed for New England.
By the time the storm reached New England, the winds were still at a Category 2 level. The storm made landfall in eastern Long Island, New York. When it did this, the eye was reported to be 50 miles wide, with a central pressure of 28.55" and winds of 95 mph at Block Island, Rhode Island. The storm crossed Long Island Sound, and proceeded to cross western Rhode Island, central Massachusetts near Worcester, and then into Maine. Through Maine, the track passed between Poland and Norway, then finally into Canada.
A total of 133 people were killed, 18 in the U.S., and 3 in Massachusetts, making this the 21st deadliest hurricane in U.S. History. Damage from this storm was extensive, and in 1990 dollars was estimated at $1,823,605,000 Dollars, the 12th costliest hurricane in U.S. History.
In Maine, the storm brought winds and heavy rain. A total of 3.18 inches of rain fell in Portland, 1 inch in only 35 minutes. In Lewiston, a total of 2.99 inches fell, flooding many streets. At the Auburn-Lewiston Airport, winds were clocked at 30 mph with gusts to 55 mph. Winds in Portland gusted to 77 mph, while in Boston they were only 51 mph. However. at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, Massachusetts the winds gusted to 140 mph with a barometric pressure of 28.52" Hg.
Along the coast, 15 to 20 boats in Falmouth harbor were damaged. Total boat damage was estimated at $250,000 dollars. Due to a potentially high storm surge, coastal residents in low-lying beach areas of Cumberland and York Counties were evacuated. Several counties lost power during the storm; These include Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York Counties. In Southwest Harbor, Maine, lightning struck the Dirigo Hotel, causing a fire at the peak of the storm. The fire caused $100,000 in damages.
Moderate damage occurred in the Auburn and Lewiston area. Trees and tree branches were knocked down, some into power lines. This caused widespread outages of both electricity and telephone service. In addition, television antenna's were damaged, as were several signs including a Sears sign in Lewiston. 25% to 40% of the apple crop was destroyed.
In Lewiston, a large tree had fallen on Horton Street and narrowly missed a police cruiser. Other damage included a trap door being blown from the roof of an apartment building. This trap door ended up falling onto Lisbon Street. Luckily, no injuries occurred. Another tree had fallen onto a house on Ash Street, and the Lewiston Fire Department responded to assist with salvage operations.
Heavy rains fell, causing the
Androscoggin river to rise by 5 times the normal flow. Gulf Island
Dam reported up to 20,000 cfs were flowing at the peak of the storm.
The abundant amount of rain did relieve dry conditions that had
increased the fire danger.
Copyright 2002, Wayne Cotterly