, Gloucester, MA

The Perfect Storm: The Story of the Andrea Gail

June 3, 2008

Storm Blindsides Cape Ann

GLOUCESTER, Mass. -- A northeaster's giant tides and gale-force winds blindsided Cape Ann on Oct. 30, 1991, leaving a path of destruction that demolished homes, devoured waterfront property and sank a local fishing vessel with all six hands lost at sea.

When the winds started blowing on Monday, Oct. 28, no one expected that two days later the communities along Cape Ann's coast would suffer more than $35 million in damage to both private and public property.

Hurricane Grace, moving up from the Caribbean, had after all headed far out to sea. But when hurricane's remnants combined with an offshore Atlantic storm, it created northeasterly winds and surging tides that struck with a fierceness that took residents by total surprise.

The resulting storm came to be referred to as the "Halloween Gale," or the "No-name Northeaster of '91."

On the first afternoon of the storm. the Coast Guard reported 15- to 20-foot breaking seas off Eastern Point, and wind speeds were a steady 35 knots and gusting up to 50 knots at the Coast Guard station.

Hours before the late afternoon tide, 30-foot waves slammed ashore and began battering many coastal houses, businesses and breakwaters.

Mountainous waves hurled debris and car-sized boulders ashore. The raging sea gouged chunks of asphalt from roads, twisted guardrails, and blasted piers apart as if artillery had struck them. Beach dunes lay mutilated; the entire coastline became transformed into something resembling the aftermath of an invasion.

The potent forces of the northeaster pushed tons of water through houses, reducing them to piles of rubble. Walls caved in and fell under the weight of the seas.

Traffic clogged many local roads, particularly the Back Shore, where residents were eager to catch a glimpse of the enormous waves. Meanwhile, flooded coastal roads left residents throughout Cape An isolated by the rising water. Live, downed electrical wires created another danger.

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The Perfect Storm: The Story of the Andrea Gail