From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

            In this area, with September comes the threat of hurricanes and memories of hurricanes past. Probably the ones that most come to mind on the Southcoast are the Hurricane of ‘38, Hurricane Carol and Hurricane Bob. I just recently learned that Carol was actually just one of the hurricanes of 1954. The picture with this article is of a downed tree in Rochester on Sept. 11, 1954.

            An interesting story that I found at the museum was from Mrs. Louisa Nevius of Rochester. She was the owner of a scrapbook handed down through her family and in 1938 after what was certainly considered a 100- year storm, she came across an article on the “Great Wind” of 1815. She brought this article to the attention of a local newspaper because it stated the opinion that with each century there comes a devastating storm.

            Relying in part on information gathered from Native Americans who used to live in the area, it would seem that as far back as the 15th century, each century up to 1815 had experienced a storm that caused loss of life and property and that also caused significant changes in the land’s topography.

            Included in Mrs. Nevius’s scrapbook was an account of the 1815 storm by John Haskell, living near Mary’s Pond in Rochester. He wrote that Sept. 23, 1815 began with a gale of wind from the east. With high tide expected around 11:00, the water at 8:00 began to rise rapidly and soon covered all the “mowing lands.” The violently blowing wind switched from south-southeast to the south. Coastal saltworks were either destroyed outright or driven across the cove. Houses, blacksmith shops and wharves were destroyed.

            He goes on to say that the worst destruction at the highest tide was followed by the clouds dissipating and the sun coming out. Following what may have been the eye of the storm was “this hurricane, a sulphureous blasting vapor. The leaves of the pine trees were so blighted as to have the appearance of fire running over them” ( which reminded me of how our whole area looked like November with nothing but brown trees after Hurricane Bob.) Then the storm ended.

            In 1938, this article gave hope that they had had their storm of the century. Unfortunately, that proved untrue in 1954. We now know that violent storms are more and more common. Here on the Southcoast we have been spared since Bob and luckily, for us Lee is moving on, and we have once again dodged a hurricane bullet.

By Connie Eshbach

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