Remembering the Perfect Storm

It was 30 years ago this week when the Perfect Storm struck the East Coast of the United States, bringing powerful winds and gargantuan waves that pummeled the Massachusetts coastline on Wednesday, October 30, and continued into the next day.

Although the storm eventually affected the entire East Coast from Canada to Florida, the most-costly damage occurred in Massachusetts, with more than 100 homes destroyed, especially along the South Shore in Marshfield.

The damage would have been much greater, given the 30-foot waves that ravaged the coastline, but the storm struck during a neap tide, the time of the month when the high tides are at their lowest.

If it had occurred during one of those King Tides — we can only imagine the devastation.

The storm originally was called the No-Name Storm or the Halloween Storm, but eventually became known as the Perfect Storm, after the book by journalist Sebastian Junger and subsequent movie (starring George Clooney) that chronicled the fate of the crew of the Gloucester fishing vessel, Andrea Gale, which sunk amidst the storm and its 100-foot waves.

Junger got that name from a Boston meteorologist, who told Junger that the storm was formed from the convergence of the remnants of Hurricane Grace and two other weather systems, which then combined into one powerful storm — the Perfect Storm — a few hundred miles out to sea and then made a beeline westward for a direct hit on Massachusetts.

According to the meteorologist, the unlikely convergence of a hurricane and two other weather systems is a once-in-a-hundred year event.

For those of us who recall seeing the waves crashing over the seawalls in Revere and Winthrop from our tall office buildings in downtown Boston, and then getting a first-hand look at the damage the next day, the Perfect Storm is one we’ll remember for the rest of our lives, just as we’ll never forget the Blizzard of ‘78 and the previous generation never forgot the Hurricane of 1938.

In view of all of the destruction wrought by weather events in other parts of the world in the past 15 years, we should consider ourselves lucky that we have not had to face similar natural catastrophes.

On the other hand, realizing that it’s been 30 years since our last truly Big One, the odds are that we are overdue for another natural disaster — “Time and tide wait for no man,” wrote the poet — and with the added impact of climate change, whatever fate awaits us, we fear it will be a bad outcome.

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