Remembering Hurricane Carol
Did you witness Hurricane Carol in 1954? Tell me about it! And if you have a picture you're willing to share, that's all the better. I'd love to hear from you and I'll add what you have to say to our "Your Views" page. So if you have something to share, please:
Send me email, Greg Stone
This was a real nice shock - the Providence Journal called for what I assumed was a few paragraphs in a general story about Hurricane Carol. Instead it turned out to be a story devoted to this Web site and it ran on Page 1 on the 50th anniversary of the Hurricane.
They did an excellent job and the result was a real surge of hits on the Web site and many new stories from people about their own experiences. (What I like most about this was I didn't promote the Web site to them - they discovered the web site on their own and contacted me. )if you have a problem getting to it, try here.
In 1954 I was 13 and the most exciting thing to happen was Hurricane Carol. I took pictures during the storm and after the storm, made them into sets, and sold them to neighbors. Here are the pictures and my memories along with those of family and friends. Greg Stone 1>
I think this was just about the peak for the tidal surge. I was standing on a little hill in our front yard when I took this picture and getting buffeted by the wind and rain.
For the Harvie's and the Robbins' and many others it was no picnic. For me it was an adventure. But Bren remembers the wind blowing so hard that water came in under their front door and ruined a rug - not river water, for they were well above the tidal surge. But it was a small taste of the nastiness of the storm. The Harvie's weren't so lucky and the Robbins' had a full flood with which to cope.
I didn't know the Robbins' well, but John Harvie was one of my heroes. He was one of a remarkable neighborhood group that exuded pure, saltwater competence and confidence. There was the wiry marine artist, George Gale, with his pipe and 18-foot coasting schooner he moored in front of our house. It was called the "Sharpshooter" and from a distance it looked like a big coasting schooner from the last century.
The Parker family had a modest little motor boat I think they called the "Putt-putt," and Mr. Parker had helped Mr. Gale build the "Sharpshooter." Mr. Harvie fit the mold too, with a beautiful little sailboat called the "Half-hitch" that I'm quite sure he built. They were just starting to make fiberglass boats in those days, but these men were pure wood and cotton caulking, real canvass, and manila rope.
They didn't talk seamanship - they were seamanship. They weren't young and handsome, just tough and reliable. Old man Mathewson had a little punt and a white dog named "Snowball," and the old man would stand in the punt and skull across the river faster than I could row and all the time making it look totally effortless. "Kicky" Hull was the local chronicler of the group, writing sometimes whimsical, always thoughtful pieces called "In Perspective" for the editorial pages of the Journal. It was funny - Barrington already had its wealthy, suburban air, and yet it also had somehow produced a huge cast of waterfront characters that seemed to come out of another place and time.
My brother Don was only 19, but he had all the makings of the same kind of water man. He was a superb racing sailor and I remember his building our first dock by chopping down trees in a nearby woods and using them as pilings. So it was in this environment - with these men, plus the likes of Mr. Gladding and Mr. Whittemore - that helped me see the storm as a big adventure. I just couldn't imagine the sea doing anything these men couldn't handle.
John Harvie had been a Marine and had actually been on Iwo Jima and other places I knew only from John Wayne movies. Now I was helping him carry things upstairs and when I could, sneaking an envious glance at the Japanese rifles and bayonets that hung on his walls. I don't know if I was really there to help, or just glad to have an excuse to gawk at the war souvenirs.
Others, of course, around the state, were experiencing far worse than what I could see from my limited vantage point. Don went to his girl friend June's house near Barrington Beach, a few miles away. He watched her Sunfish sailboat tumble down the yard and into the Bay; then he saw the roof of a house float by. So there were places not far away where people were dying and homes were being destroyed and yet for me, it remained a huge adventure. Not unlike a war, I suppose, where every bit of common sense tells you this is hell, and yet young men still go to war and each generation seems to have to learn the lessons anew. Hurricanes are something like that. As you feel the wind and rain on your face, you can't help revelling in it - and deluding yourself about facing the worst nature can deliver - while a half-mile down the road someone's house is splitting in two, and across the Bay someone else is dying.
Just across the river at the Barrington Yacht Club the docks were all under water at this time and being carried away. In the club house the water was up to the mantel above the fireplace.
In Providence they had measured their first Hurricane-force gust near 10 am and by 11 am 90-100 miles an hour was common. The highest official wind measurement was somewhere between 105 and 115. The weather service wasn't sure because that gust blew the cups off the anenometer!
According to the Providence Journal, the water came in suprisingly fast, covering streets and the cars parked on them. By shortly after noon it was between four- and eight-feet deep in parts of the city. It climbed five-feet six-inches up the walls of the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel, just six inches short of the 1938 mark.