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                     HURRICANE BOB AUGUST 19, 1991

Hurricane Bob

Monday, August 19, 1991

(above) Standard-Times souvenir book on Hurricane Bob

 Major Hurricanes Along SouthCoast Are Rare

– But The Memories Linger

By MLBaron

   Bob was the earliest known hurricane to impact SE New England. This was the first significant test for the New Bedford-Fairhaven Hurricane Barrier on it’s 25th anniversary of completion in 1966. Bob’s name was retired in 1991.

(Top and Bottom ) of Padanaram Bridge – Dartmouth, MA Photos by Bob Bumpus

    The most prominent landmark destroyed in greater New Bedford was the 391 foot radio tower on Crow island in the middle of the Acushnet River. The newly constructed $35,000 walkway  on the causeway to West Island was destroyed. The boardwalk lasted less than 2 months. Underground utilities were put in place to West Island after Bob toppled most of the utility poles that were exposed to the pounding waves and wind along the causeway – which at high tide is only about 3 ft above sea level on a good day.

     The last hurricane event before Bob was Hurricane Gloria that affected the region on Friday Sept 27, 1985. This over-hyped “storm of the century” had tens of millions evacuate and run for cover. The public attitude towards hurricane warnings were never the same after Gloria never anted up to nothing more than mediocre tropical storm at best with a high wind gust in New Bedford of 90 MPH and only 1.27″ of rain. In defense of this storm, Gloria did cause some long term power outages with  isolated areas of extensive wind damage on land and along the shore.

     Hurricane Bob was one the costliest hurricanes in New England history. The second named storm and first hurricane of the 1991 Atlantic hurricane season, Bob developed from an area of low-pressure near The Bahamas on August 16. The depression steadily intensified, and became Tropical Storm Bob late on August 16. Bob curved north-northwestward after becoming a tropical storm, but re-curved to the north-northeast after becoming a hurricane on August 17. Bob brushed the Outer Banks of North Carolina as it moved north-northeastward on August 18 and August 19, and intensified into a major hurricane (Category 3+ Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale) shortly thereafter. After peaking with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h), Bob weakened slightly as it approached the coast of New England.

Hurricane Bob Strikes, (above)This 1991 documentary produced and directed by M.L.Baron who was in Hurricane Bob and saw first hand the destructive power of this Category 2 hurricane on Monday, August 19, 1991. Other footage provided by local citizens who contributed their videos for this production. This video was produced at Fairhaven/Acushnet Cablevision. Special thanks to Bob Cormier.
(above) Hurricane Bob August 19, 1991 Aftermath sail boats damaged, debris along Smith Neck Rd near Padanaram Bridge and boat salvage.

     Bob made landfall twice in Rhode Island as a Category 2 hurricane on August 19, first on Block Island and then in Newport. Bob was the only hurricane to make U.S. landfall during the 1991 season. As it continued inland, Bob rapidly weakened, and deteriorated to a tropical storm as it emerged into the Gulf of Maine. Shortly thereafter, Bob made landfall in Maine as a strong tropical storm early on August 20. Bob entered the Canadian province of New Brunswick a few hours later, and transitioned into an extratropical storm. By August 21, the remnants of Bob crossed Newfoundland and re-emerged into the open Atlantic Ocean. The remnants of Bob traveled a long distance across the northern Atlantic Ocean, and finally dissipated east of Portugal on August 29.

Home video (above)of Hurricane Bob August 19, 1991 Aftermath West Island Fairhaven, MA. Causeway, cottages, boats, destroyed walkway on the causeway that was just built costing the town $35K, Fairhaven Fire Dept, assessing damage. Earls Marina boat storage shed demolished. Aftermath shows the causeway very much intact and passable. Manzone cottage on causeway washed away. Special thanks to Bob Cormier.

      Bob left extensive damage throughout New England, totaling to approximately $1.5 billion (1991 USD, $2.42 billion 2011 USD) in damage. In addition, seventeen fatalities were reported in associated with Bob. The damage and fatalities that were reported were a result of high winds and rough seas. Bob is also the most recent hurricane to strike New England, as of 2010; Hurricane Edouard brought hurricane force winds to Nantucket in 1996, but the center itself stayed offshore. Due to extensive damage, the name Bob was retired in the spring of 1992, and was replaced with Bill starting in 1997.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (above) Hurricane Bob aftermath in Mattapoisett, MA Home video August 19, 1991.



BOSTON NWS                 NW 64 MPH               2.21″                   28.93″      16:10 EDT
BLUE HILL OBS               ENE 78 MPH               2.58″                  28.78″      15:45 EDT
BEDFORD                         NW 60 MPH               5.47″                  28.99″      16:35 EDT
ACUSHNET                          E 75 MPH                 .90                    28.48″      14:57 EDT
CHATHAM                            E 91 MPH                 .18                    29:02″      15:45 EDT
CHICOPEE                              58 MPH                4.05″                   
MARTHA’S VIN CG                 98 MPH                    
NANTUCKET                           75 MPH
NEW BEDFORD DIKE             106 MPH               7.6 FT SURGE      28:48″      14:57 EDT
BLOCK ISLAND                     125 MPH est                                      28:35″      13:30 EDT
NEWPORT                         SE 96 MPH
WESTERLY                             75 MPH                8.6 FT SURGE      28:72″     14:15 EDT

 (ABOVE) The Crow Island Tower in September 1990

Peter Jarosik – KA!WBE, a life long water front fixture in New Bedford Harbor was also a live truck operator at ABC-6 News Providence RI. He designed and built the tower of The West Island Weather Station and now resides in Florida.

      Jarosik; was one of the last commercial radio providers that utilized the tower after WNBH stopped transmitting from it in the mid-1970’s. Because of it’s 391 ft height the tower still was a very favorable site for transmitting commercially. Pete recalled fondly, that as a kid he brought over the site engineer of WNBH by boat to the island to service the gear. “An RCA transmitter put out a 1,000 watts during the day and 250 watts at night. The entire tower emitted the signal and was isolated from the ground.  A web of ground cables in the salt water equivalent to height of the tower made for a superior ground plane.” Jarosik said. 

        During windy days you look up from the transmitter sheds roof to the top of the tower and see it slightly sway. The steel self-supporting  structure was designed to withstand a sustained 89mph wind.

       On Monday, August 19, 1991, Fairhaven Police Officer Richard Claflin witnessed the entire tower at crow Island slant over for a few seconds and then it slowly heaved over and collapsed into the Acushnet River about 1:30PM at the height of the hurricane. This would be the third and last time that the tower had collapsed in a hurricane since 1954 and 1944.

    The tower was never rebuilt. There was discussion of replacing it, but with the advent of newer communication technology, the estimated one-million dollar price tag was not practical. Today, the island is privately owned by Carl Pimental , a local restauranteur who owns The Smuggler’s Den and Billy Woods Wharf of New Bedford. The original radio control room building remains intact as a residence. Crow Island is considered a part of The Town of Fairhaven.

    The end of an era. Standard-Times photo by Jack Iddon

      I was one of the last radio operators to transmit from the tower before it went down. I was also a live correspondent for WNBH that day. WNBH was the only radio station left on the air during the storm.  The station was transmitting from it’s County St, New Bedford location. Bernadette Coelho, Keith Thibeault were out in the field as well with Jack Peterson at the news desk. I was located by the hurricane barrier on the Fairhaven side. Wind gusts against my studio van reached 110mph. The highest gust recorded was 125mph at Block Island. The radio station received The Associated Press Award for Outstanding Coverage of a Live News Event that year. clip was taped during the storm of the WNBHbroadcast when all the power went out. 


 MLBaron (above)  multi-prize winner “Thunderstruck” weather trivia contest sponsored by The Weather Channel. Standard-Times photo taken by Jack Iddon, August 9, 1991. 10 days later Hurricane Bob hit SouthCoast MA. MLBaron, SkyWarn spotter along with a radio crew from WNBH received the AP Award for “Outstanding Coverage” in a live major weather event.

Most Infamous SouthCoast

Hurricanes Have Never Hit on a


By MLBaron

  WEST ISLAND:   It appears that hurricanes in the past 100 years have given SouthCoast Massachusetts a break on weekends. Having two consecutive days ( Saturday and Sunday) in a row without hurricanes is also a curious factor.  Night time hurricanes are also rare, with the exception of the 1944 Hurricane which slammed the region just before midnight.

Monday…… August 19, 1991……..Hurricane Bob

Monday…..September 12, 1960….Hurricane Donna

Tuesday…….August 31, 1954…..Hurricane Carol

Wednesday…September 21, 1938…1938 Hurricane

Thursday……September 14, 1944….1944 Hurricane

Friday………September 27, 1985…Hurricane Gloria

*Saturday…….September 11, 1954……….Edna

*Hurricane Edna formed just 10 days after Hurricane Carol and impacted the region on Saturday, September 11, 1954 but the damage was more localized to the Cape Cod area. Edna gave an already battered SouthCoast just a glancing blow.

2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted to Be a Busy One

The causeway to West Island washed out, after Hurricane Carol, 1954

       Forecasters continue to predict an above average hurricane season similar to last year. The last major hurricane to impact Southeastern MA was Bob, on August 19, 1991. Bob was one of the earliest recorded hurricanes to impact the area. For those who lost water service last Monday for a few hours, imagine being shut-off for days and maybe even weeks if you decided to ride out a hurricane on West Island. Add to that, the loss of power and other vital utilities and this is when the reality of complacency will hit home. footage (above) of  West Island and the causeway getting over run by Hurricane Bobs tidal surge on Monday, August 19, 1991.Footage by Kim Hyland, island resident.        Soon town officials will meet on West Island with their usual hurricane preparedness plan for islanders who decide to stay with four basic words: “You’re on your own”. I’ve had islanders as old as a 100 say they’re going to stay. It is not out of the question to assume that as many as 1,000 people could be stranded out here after not heeding voluntary evacuation advice. Although some boast they are fully prepared to remain with generators, supplies and even a spare car on the “neck” to row over to if the causeway is washed out, the majority won’t be. The lack of medical and emergency services would also add to an already complicated scenario. has several hurricane albums completely scanned for those to be reminded of the magnitude of full blown major hurricanes from the past featuring Carol in 1954, The 1938 and 1944 Hurricanes.

The causeway to West Island is about four feet above sea-level.

After going through HURRICANE BOB,

a little bee almost claimed a victim

By M.L.Baron, KA1WBH West Island Weather Station

     CableVision of Fairhaven/Acushnet Ma h
ad dozens of miles of cable lines downed by Hurricane Bob, that impacted the Southcoast of Massachusetts. Cable services to homes and businesses were torn off by high winds, debris and fallen trees. Cable TV crews, Utility workers and contractors flowed into the area to render assistance. The cable company was short on communications gear so I provided some of my portable radios from my weather station. As program director for Fairhaven/Acushnet public access Cable 2 , not much could be done immediately after the storm. The station was without power, however the studio van’s generator provided some electricity to the building with badly needed lighting and power to some of the office and electronics.

     I monitored cable radio traffic when all of a sudden, a frantic call for help came over one of my loaned radios. A crew working way out near the Acushnet/Freetown line was in serious trouble. Yellow jacket bees were a nuisance all over the place from fallen trees disturbing their nests and where very aggressive and agitated. Numerous workers were stung. Shortly after one crew member was stung, he had a violent reaction and fell to the ground. There was only one worker with him far out at the Freetown/Acushnet line. He made a frantic call on the 2-way radio and barely made a readable signal. He stated his partner had stopped breathing and was turning blue after being stung. The manager at the cable office was startled and said, “I don’t know what to tell you!”.

     I took control of the frequency, and immediately called the Acushnet Police Department for an ambulance.I spoke with dispatcher Mrs Richard, and told her to get in touch with the ambulance via radio NOW and relay to me first aid to get the victim breathing immediately “or I was going to lose him”. The ambulance gave instructions over their frequency and I copied the radio traffic and carefully relayed the instructions step by step to the victim’s co-worker on his radio. I had to move fast because I didn’t know how much power their portable radio had left. I remember the EMT’s saying to get the victims head face up and neck straight so that his wind pipe would be unobstructed, and then they guided us with mouth to mouth resuscitation procedures.

     The seconds it took to go through this felt like an eternity, I can only imagine what the co-worker was going through trying to save his friends life. In the meantime the ambulance was going as fast as safely possible dodging debris and fallen trees to get to the scene a dozen miles away. There was a brief moment of silence on the frequency and the Acushnet EMT asked for an update, I radioed the co-worker and he appeared to be crying, and stated that his friend had started breathing again! It’s amazing how a little yellow jacket could have brought down a burly 260lb man. I’ll never forget the cable man giving me a hefty hand shake days afterward, he thanked me for saving his life. I advised him it was a team effort and that his co-worker who kept a cool head was the real hero.

    It is important to note that up to 50% of hurricane casualties can occur long after the storm has passed from the hazards that are left behind.