Hurricane Bob, the second named storm of the 1991 season, would have been perhaps the most memorable storm of that year had it not been for the Perfect Storm, which occurred about two and a half months later. The Perfect Storm, which eventually became the subject of a book and movie included a tropical ingredient in the form of Category One Hurricane Grace. Nevertheless, the storm's name was retired in 1992, and replaced in 1997.
Bob was the fifth tropical storm or hurricane to pay a visit to the Northeast in the past fifteen years. It was the strongest hurricane to impact the region since Hurricane Gloria back in September, 1985. I can recall this storm quite well. It was the first time I was able to track a hurricane or tropical storm via the Weather Channel, which I wasn't able to watch until my family acquired cable television the year before.
The 1991 hurricane season was below average when compared to the 50 year average. There were only eight named storms, four hurricanes, and two major hurricane, one of which was Bob. In another irony from that season, The Perfect Storm, or the 1991 Halloween Nor'easter as it is also referred to, not only had the remnants of Hurricane Grace as some of its ingredients, but it also spurred the genesis of a later hurricane that went unnamed. In all likelihood, this eighth and final hurricane of the 1991 season attained that status after some reanalysis done by the National Hurricane Center.
Like Hurricane Belle, another storm that this site decided to commemorate after some evaluation and debate over the past year, Bob was a storm that kind of surprised me when I went back into my storm database and looked it up. The storm was a major hurricane with Category Three strength winds of 115 mph, and a minimum central pressure of 950 mb, or 28.05 inches of Hg. In comparing these two storms, Belle was the stronger of the two, and was able to maintain its major hurricane strength for a longer period, but Bob actually stayed a hurricane much longer. Both storms followed similar paths up the East Coast although Bob had a duration of almost two weeks while Belle lasted last than one week.
According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Bob had originated as a tropical depression on August 16th just east of the Bahamas after originating as an area of disturbed weather near Bermuda. Within 24 to 36 hours of becoming a depression, Bob was born. One vivid memory that I did have from this storm was how it gradually strengthened into a hurricane. At peak intensity, Bob was just 30 to 35 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. However, the storm did not make landfall there. Instead, it moved up the Eastern Seaboard, bypassing Long Island, and impacting Southern New England.
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My other memory of Hurricane Bob was being in my living room and watching the clouds roll by during that afternoon. Bob passed off well to the east of New Jersey. As a matter of fact, it missed the tip of Long Island, and rolled into New England with a direct hit on Massachusetts and Maine. President Bush had been at his summer retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine when the storm paid him a visit. By this time in my life, I was attending college, and had taken up hurricane tracking as a hobby.
Being that this was a major storm affecting the East Coast of the United States, particularly the Northeast, there was plenty of news coverage from all the media networks from the big three of CBS, ABC, and NBC to Cable Networks such as CNN. There was plenty of local coverage of the storm as well. Local reporters were stationed all along the Jersey Shore and Long Island awaiting the arrival of Bob. Unfortunately, they would be disappointed since the hurricane strayed far from both coastlines.
It was a time of optimism though in the country. The cold war had just ended. A coup attempt in Moscow that August was amazingly thwarted by the people, which were led by Boris Yeltsin, who used his fame to claim power and the era of glasnost and perestroika brought in by Mikhail Gorbachev was over along with the Soviet Union. The Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves faced off in a thrilling seven game World Series that was won by the Twins in an extra inning Game 7. It was also the year of the first Gulf War, which the U.S. led coalition won convincingly by expelling Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
The year was also remembered for a tumultuous hearing on Capitol Hill when Clarence Thomas was nominated to be a justice on the Supreme Court. Allegations of sexual misconduct dominated the hearings, but Thomas was eventually approved. Computers were beginning to realize its potential with the first uses of the internet and online services such as America Online, CompuServe, and Prodigy. Weather wise, it was a hot summer with over 30 days of 90 degree or better heat in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.
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Bob would eventually make landfall as a Category Two Hurricane near the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts with winds of 100 mph. Bob moved across Southeastern Massachusetts into the Gulf of Maine before it made its second landfall near Rockland, Maine late in the evening on August 19th. Losing its tropical characteristics, the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm, and gradually began to die a slow death over the cooler waters of the Canadian Maritimes, but not before impacting the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
When all was said and done, Hurricane Bob was responsible for 18 deaths and approximately 1.5 billion dollars in damage. The Northeast and New England coastlines, which are known to have high surges, were affected by significant storm surge from Bob. The coast of Rhode Island only had a six to ten foot surge, but the Buzzards Bay area of Massachusetts saw a tidal surge of 10 to 15 feet. In two coastal Massachusetts communities 61 of 72 homes were destroyed. In addition, extensive beach erosion occurred, particularly on the tourist attractions of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island, which lost up to fifty feet of coastline to the storm.
Rainfall amounts ranged between one and eight inches with Portland, Maine receiving the most with 8.24 inches. Due to the death and destruction caused by the storm in addition to the fact that it was a significant Northeastern hurricane, Bob's name was retired in 1992, and was replaced by Bill for the 1997 Atlantic Hurricane season. Comparing Bob to other storms that affected the Northeast and New England, it was not as significant as Hurricane Gloria was since Bob missed Long Island. Gloria was also a much stronger storm during its lifetime, and had longer duration than Bob did.
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