Hurricane Carol Causes Heavy Loss In Seacoast Area
The Hampton Union & Rockingham County Gazette, Thursday, September 2, 1954
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union]
The Seacoast Region was still adding up the staggering property loss today as a result of Tuesday's hurricane which lashed the coastal areas with winds up to 100 miles an hour, leaving in its path a wake of havoc and destruction.
Stately elm trees were toppled, houses wrecked, boats lifted and smashed like match sticks as the full fury of Hurricane 'Carol" was felt by the towns in the seacoast region.
The big blow, which started in Florida and was reported to be passing out to sea earlier in the day, suddenly veered and cut across the Connecticut - Thole Island shore line, swept across Cape Cod and on up the coastline to New Hampshire in much the same path as the 1938 hurricane.
Property damage is considered to be higher than in 1938 with estimates running all he way to 500 million dollars, but the loss is so widespread that it would seem impossible to arrive at a figure anywhere near accurate.
Trying to report the story is almost as hard because on every street and highway, there was destruction. The tall, stately elms, which have long been a landmark in New England, took the brunt of the storm and it was a lucky householder that didn't have one leaving against his house or spread across the lawn.
Crop Damage Heavy
The orchards and farms of the region were also hard hit and the loss of corn, apples and peach crop has been estimated at $15 million alone.
It was a staggering loss to the farmers as well as business firms and public utilities, which suffered heavily with poles and wires down all over the coastal section.
Crews worked around the clock to restore light and telephone service but company officials fear that it will be days before normal service can be restored to all affected areas.
Train service through Hampton was interrupted when the wind whipped waters, washed out the tracks across the marsh and repair crews are at work trying to repair the damage. Meanwhile mail and passengers are being transported by bus from Newburyport to Hampton and most of the traffic is being routed over the western division.
Airport Suffers Heavy Loss
One of the biggest individual losses was suffered at the Hampton Airport where several small planes were ripped from their moorings, and broken into splinters along the railroad tracks. Unofficial estimates placed the damage at close to $50,000.
Despite the terrific damage from toppling trees and 100-mile-an-hour winds [illegible], there were no serious injuries reported in Hampton, although the storm's toll in New England had been placed at 48 dead with the count rising steadily.
Selectman Donald A. Ring probably had the narrowest escape from death when a huge tree struck his car on the Exeter Road near the town line and completely wrecked the vehicle.
Two big limbs of the tree crushed the front and rear of the car which Mr. Ring managed to escape serious injury because he was sitting where the fork of the tree struck. He managed to squeeze out of the door suffering only slight cuts and bruises.
The churches of the area also suffered heavily as the spire of the First Congregational Church in Hampton was torn asunder by the high winds and in Hampton Falls, a large tree crashed against the side of the Fist Baptist Church breaking several stained glass windows.
At Hampton River Boat club, small craft were scattered all over the marsh area with many being driven up against the railroad embankment across the marsh. [illegible] railroad tracks while many other boats could not even be found.
The beautiful shade trees in Hampton Falls were also the victims of high winds with nearly every road blocked by toppled giants. On Lafayette road the home of Mrs. Emma R. Norton was heavily damaged when a huge elm tree crashed through on the end of the Colonial structure, severing it as though cut by a huge knife.
Rye Harbor Wrecked
At Rye Harbor about 35 boats were either damaged, wrecked against the rocks or lost entirely. Many boats were just a pile of splinters as unofficial estimates place the loss at $150,000.
At Rye Beach summer visitors were evacuated to the Rye Town Hall by buses as the raging ocean threatened to inundate the cottages and wash out the highways. Rye Police Chief Delwyn E. Philbrick blocked off the ocean highway Wednesday between Saunders and Washington Road while clearing the debris and boats which were battered against the sea wall and even tossed onto the highway.
More than 200 trees were reported down in Exeter and officials there said that Hurricane Carol caused more damage there than had the 1938 blow.
Within 10 minutes power lines were down in many sections of the town. One big tree crashed down through the half home of Harold Brown, 19 Green Street, and wound up flat across the floor of the back rooms of the dwelling. Mrs. Brown walked out of another part of the house unharmed.
Wind Whips Tide
The full force of the unpredictable hurricane struck Hampton about 1:30 p.m., whipping the high tide of a normal 8-feet up to an estimated 11-foot mark and necessitating the evacuation of a large part of the summer population.
Police Chief John J. Malek ordered an evacuation of the beach shortly before noon with the news being spread to vacationists by use of a sound truck operated by John Holman [of Holman's Sound Service] due to loss of telephone communications and power failure.
An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 persons left the beach in a short space of two hours some by their own automobiles, but most through the use of Marshall buses which rendered yeoman service along with many beach wagons and private cars volunteered by Hampton citizens and garages.
The largest percentage of the evacuees were removed to the town's two school buildings where an estimated 2,000 were crowded in the Hampton Academy & High School and approximately 900 in the Centre School. Others were taken to the Hampton Methodist Church and Hackett's Garage while others were taken to Exeter.
Red Cross On Scene
Following the storm the hard working school janitors who have spent the best part of the summer getting everything spic and span for the opening of schools next week, set about the task of cleaning up the buildings all over again.
Several hundred other vacationists sought refuse in the beach fire station where coffee and light refreshments were provided by the Hampton Beach Precinct and later in the afternoon the American Red Cross set up headquarters there but had few requests for food or shelter.
Hampton Beach did not appear to have suffered as much property damage as the town section where trees toppled by the high winds damaged homes and blocked nearly every street and highway.
There was considerable damage to store fronts, signs, awnings and roofs along the beach front, but the most wreckage occurred in the harbor area where boats were blown adrift and scattered about the marshes like so many match sticks.
Has Narrow Escape
One beach resident, Ted Stone of Island Path, had a narrow escape from drowning when he set out in a dory to rescue his boat which he never did succeed in reaching. Losing the oars, his dory was blown against a 16-foot canvas-decked boat into which he clambered and rode out the storm, winding up on the marshes well up Hampton River. Another Hampton man, George Smith of Mill Road was marooned in the marshes when he attempted to rescue his boat and narrowly escaped drowning.
The wind whipped tide broke over breakwaters and in the vicinity of the Allen Hotel scattered debris and shale across the boulevard making it impassable. Chief Malek ordered all traffic onto the beach halted at North Shore corner and it wasn't until nearly five o'clock that road scrapers cleared the highway and normal traffic flow was resumed on the beach with people who had been removed from cottages and cabins, being allowed to return.
All available regular and auxiliary policemen were pressed into service and Chief Malek credited them with such an excellent job of handling traffic under the abnormal conditions that not one person was injured in Hampton. Several persons reported narrow escapes from being hit by flying limbs and falling trees, but no serious inquiries were reported.
Just as the worst of the hurricane appeared over, the winds shifted from southeast to southwest and whipped up the flooded marshlands, with the water flowing over the causeway at North Shore and inundating cottages on Marsh Avenue, Island and Glade Paths. North of Boar's Head the ocean and marshes were almost joined.
Several cars were stalled on the North Shore causeway and had to be pushed or towed out of water up to three feet deep which flooded the highway and interrupted traffic for more than an hour.
At North Shore the roof of the Colony Club bathhouse was blown off while the stately pines in Smith's Grove were toppled like ten pins.
The power failed at 11:30 a.m., and it wasn't until 7:30 p.m. that the first lights were restored in the town business section.
So many trees remain across electric light and telephone wires that officials of both utilities predict that it will be several days before normal service can be restored to all affected areas.
Crews are working around the clock to repair the damage which was caused by Hurricane 'Carol' in a little more than an hour's duration.
Many homes and business places were reporting acute hardship and mounting economic losses due to the loss of power with preservation of food in refrigerators and freezers fast becoming an acute problem. Householders and store proprietors considered this more important than the loss of lights and telephones.