Remembering Hurricane Bob, 25 Years Later

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: History , Storms

The sailboat Leading Lady found herself on the rocks at Stage Harbor. FILE PHOTO

Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, Hurricane Bob sped across Southeast Massachusetts, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and shattering a peaceful Cape Cod summer.

Winds gusted to 98 mph in Harwich and 115 mph at Stage Harbor from the Category 3 storm, trashing the boats in area harbors, downing countless trees and leaving more than 300,000 Cape and Islands residents without power.

Still, owing to the fact that landfall happened well west of the Lower Cape, the brunt of the storm was borne by communities near Fall River and New Bedford. The storm also came ashore two hours before high tide, limiting the storm surge felt on the Lower Cape.

In Chatham, around 70 boats were smashed or grounded in Stage Harbor. Harbormaster Peter Ford estimated that boat losses in all the town's waterways represented between $3 million and $5 million in damage. A shelter was opened at the high school to help residents without electricity, but by the following day, Tuesday, power had been restored to half of the town. That day, Governor William Weld visited Chatham by National Guard helicopter, stopping at the airport to meet with selectmen.

Damage to boats was extremely heavy in Harwich's harbors, with boats piled high near the Lower County Road bridge in Allen Harbor. Damage to houses and properties in Harwich was estimated to top $2.5 million, including around $200,000 in damage to town-owned properties. In one such case, windows were blown in at the high school, causing minor injuries to three people. The storm blew holes in the school's roof and tore off siding. Though there were no major injuries, a Holden man suffered a fatal heart attack at Harwich Port Boat Works during the feverish effort to remove boats from the water ahead of the storm.

In its long path of destruction from North Carolina to Nova Scotia, the storm claimed 18 lives and caused damage exceeding $1.5 billion, or nearly $2.7 billion in today's dollars.

Almost immediately after the storm, life began to return to normal on the Lower Cape, though some customers were without power for as long as 10 days. On Friday, the first running of the “Sails Around Cape Cod” sailboat race, which started and ended in Harwich, went ahead with half the expected number of participants.