Got an interesting email from sister Jan, retired Commander with the U.S. Navy, who was stationed in Newport when Hurricane Bob hit in 1991. With her permission, here it is:
It was almost exactly 20 years ago that I rode out the direct hit Bob made on Newport. As I recall, Bob had flirted with the entire East Coast, waving at Miami to Cape May while eluding the weathermen who wanted the story in their backyard. When it turned ENE away from NJ and the I-95 corridor the story died out. That was on Friday evening. The Weather Channel, and Cable, were still young; so if the networks didn’t see a story, most of us didn’t hear the story because to them there was no story.
Sunday afternoon, as I was getting ready to leave Mom in Providence, we heard on the radio that Bob was coming back toward NE, and Cape Cod looked like it might be in the cross-hairs. By the 6 PM news, we were in the larger target area, and the run on supplies had started. Since I lived in a huge 150-year-old mansion (at the highest point in town) I told everyone to come on over, and we’d ride it out there. By 5 AM monday, we knew that Block Island, the Narragansett Bay and Newport would probably be at ground zero.
Funny, the day of Bob was downright weird. The storm was tight — there wasn’t a breath of wind at 9 AM. We were stressed waiting, but around noon we were hearing that Block Island was probably going to get a direct hit, and so would we. And boy, did we ever. All my New Jersey memories of hurricanes were that they came at night. But because Bob came through in the middle of the day, I think the experience was very memorable, and a lot more impressive and nerve-wracking. As I remember …
- 21 people and a cocker spaniel at my place, eating everything in our cumulative kitchens that might spoil. Wired from adrenaline and drinking gallons of coffee.
- When the eye went over, everyone, including the dog, fell asleep for at least 5 minutes. It was the flower fields outside Oz all over again. Pressure change, we were told. Happened to a lot of folks. But talk about weird.
- We watched the 15′ of top of a pine tree zip down Old Beach Rd. like a cruise missile at an altitude of 20′ max.
- We watched the huge 100+ yr. flowering chestnuts whipping in the wind, flinging their spiky nuts like mini-balls all over the place. Some were later found embedded in the stucco of the house. (Later in the fall, the tops of those trees were celebrating a false spring while the lower part were fully autumn.
- After the eye went by (came in directly over the house — we saw blue — the storm petered out quickly and we went out to walk around. There wasn’t a spot of pavement to see – everything was covered in leaves and limbs and debris.
- No power, of course, but the outage was everywhere. Restoration was in an ever decreasing circle and my place was last. Eight days after the storm, the radio said all power was restored with the exception of the Rhode Island Ave/Old Beach Rd. intersection. That was me.
- They had to use snowplows in some cases to clear the streets and for the rest of Aug and Sept the streets of Newport were like country lanes — lovely packed leaf and twig crush for a roadbed.
- The collected debris was piled in the parking lot on the beach at the bottom of Memorial Boulevard, and it was about 20′ high and 40′ wide, running the full 1000′ length of the lot. After waiting for what seemed like weeks for the right off-shore winds, they started the burning and it seemed to go on forever.
- Someone forgot to cash in, so we never saw an I Survived Bob tee shirt.