HURRICANE GLORIA - 1985
excerpted from ctpost.com
Dr. Mel Goldstein, the retired meteorologist from WTNH Channel 8, who, it can be said, is old enough to remember the last time the state was hit by "real" hurricanes, which was back in the 1950s, has some thoughts on Hurricane Gloria.
"Hurricane Gloria back in 1985 caused the biggest power outage in the state's history," Goldstein said. "But, we have to keep in mind that Gloria actually broke up before it got here. By the time it made landfall in Connecticut, it wasn't even a hurricane ---- it was downgraded to a tropical storm." To re-live an actual hurricane in Connecticut, one would have to turn the clock back more than a half-century, he said. "Everybody thinks, `Oh boy, Gloria, that was a big storm,' but it wasn't in the grand scheme of things," he said.
The granddaddy of all Connecticut hurricanes was the hurricane of Sept. 3, 1938, which made landfall at Milford at 3 p.m. Coastline harbors reported storm surges in the 12- to 25-foot range. To make matters worse, it arrived at high tide and the ground was already saturated from heavy rainfall a few days earlier. Ninety people were killed, and much of the state's infrastructure east of Quinnipiac River was obliterated.
"We haven't really had much in the way of storm activity since the `50s," Goldstein said. "In 1991, Hurricane Bob missed us, and we were on the weak side of it, too. In 1976, we had Belle, but she was a poor excuse for a hurricane in my book."
But in the 1950s, Goldstein says, the state was pummeled by several major tropical storms. There was Carol in 1954, just one year after the National Weather Service, then known as the U.S. Weather Bureau, began naming storms using female names. (Since 1978, both male and female names have been used.)
Carol turned New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties into disaster areas, and caused $400 million damage to the state in today's dollars. Many farmers were ruined, with today's equivalent of $24 million in crop losses. Carol killed 60 in all, and even toppled the steeple of Boston's Old North Church.
Then came August 1955, when back-to-back hurricanes Connie and Diane lumbered through the state, dumping more than 27 inches of rain in most places. Connie arrived on Aug. 13, and Diane followed but five days later. By Aug. 19, just about every river and stream in the state was over their banks. Connecticut was soaked with even more drenching rain on Oct. 15-16.
In all, there were 91 dead and 12 missing in the state; 86,000 people had lost work, 1,100 were homeless and the flooding caused $500 million is damage in 1956 dollars, or $4 billion today. The New Haven Railroad lost 10 bridges and cities along the Naugatuck River were left in shambles.
After that, and arguably until today, there was little in the way of tropical storm activity in Connecticut. Donna made landfall at New London on Sept. 12, 1960, but its winds quickly died down and flooding wasn't significant.
In 1961, Esther arrived with about 6 inches if rain, but damage was again minor. Hurricane Belle made landfall at Bridgeport on August 10, 1976, but rapidly weakened.
On Sept. 17, 1985, Gloria arrived in eastern CT with more than her share of hype. It had been tracked for two weeks -- with much improved weather satellite imagery -- and it was a Category 4 storm at one point. But by the time it reached the Carolinas, it has lost most of its punch. Goldstein called it "the lunch hour storm" in his book, "Dr. Mel's Connecticut Climate Book."
As for Irene, however, Goldstein said that it looks "like a lot of storms of the 1950s," because it will either be a direct hit, or its more rain-drenched eastern side will drench much of the state.
"It really has the potential to be a truly damaging storm," he said.