The 14 Most Infamous Storms on the North Shore

The North Shore is no stranger to storms. From hurricanes to snow storms, this area has suffered a lot of damage and even deaths due to intense weather. In fact, the area is so stormy that it even has its own iconic storm—the nor'easter. Featuring cyclonic winds that blow in from the northeast, these storms often include rain or snow leading to flooding, and they sometimes overlap with blizzards, hurricanes, and cyclones. Curious about the biggest storms in the area? Here's a look at 13 of the most infamous ones.

1. The Great Hurricane of 1938


RPPC Tidal Wave at RR Station Buzzards Bay Ma Hurricane of 1938

With 138 mph gusts, this Category 3 hurricane was arguably the worst storm to ever hit New England. Dubbed the "Long Island Express", this storm led to 564 deaths and 1,700 injuries, while also destroying 9,000 homes and businesses and damaging an additional 15,000 structures. It's no wonder people are still talking about it.

2. Winter Storm Grayson (2018)


Satellite Image of Winter Storm Grayson
By The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - https://cdn.star.nesdis.noaa.gov, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65247523

This recent storm from January 2018 featured 75 mph winds, and it brought over a foot of snow to Boston, close to 20 inches to the eastern part of the state, and well over two feet to other parts of New England. However, the reason this storm takes such a high spot on the list is because the storm surge coupled with astronomical high tides created waves that the area hadn't seen in nearly 80 years since the Great Hurricane of ‘38.

In Boston, high tide hit 15.1 feet, matching the record set in the Blizzard of '78. These intensely wet conditions flooded many homes and businesses throughout Boston, Scituate, and Revere as well as many other areas. Woodman’s of Essex, a 100-year-old institution known for its lobster and clambakes, was hit especially hard.

3. The Blizzard of ‘78


Snow near City Hall
By City of Boston Archives from West Roxbury, United States - Snow near City Hall, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65429193

Ice and flooding at Woodman’s of Essex

In February 1978, this storm brought 27.1 inches of snow to Boston. Unfortunately, it didn't just bring in snowball fights and sledding; it also brought $500 million in property damage to Massachusetts, caused the death of 73 people, and injured 4,324 people. Although it happened nearly 40 years ago, this storm is still a popular topic of conversation in the northeast, especially for the people who lived through it.

4. The Perfect Storm (1991)


Unnamed hurricane of 1991 at peak intensity on November 1 at 1906 UTC.

By NOAA / Satellite and Information Service - http://www.class.noaa.gov/Inventory ID: 2016206, Dataset Name: NSS.HRPT.NH.D91305.S1906.E1919.B1598989.WI, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1490658

Spawning a bestselling book and a film by the same name, this 1991 nor'easter is also called the Halloween Storm or the No-Name Storm. A riotous convergence of multiple weather systems, this storm was created when a nor'easter gripped Hurricane Grace near the end of her cycle. That combination evolved into a powerful hurricane that hit a ridge in Canada and blew back into the northeast as a cyclone.

This Perfect Storm caused 30-foot waves from Florida to Canada, and out at sea, it wrecked the Andrea Gail, sinking the ship and causing the death of the six crew members on board. However, the storm hit Massachusetts the hardest with 80-foot waves that destroyed over 100 homes and lead to extensive flooding throughout the area. For its final chapter, the storm moved to the southwest, where it turned into a subtropical cyclone and eventually into a tropical storm.

5. Hurricane Donna (1960)


Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale
Created using WikiProject Tropical cyclones/Tracks. The background image is from NASA. Tracking data from the National Hurricane Center.[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=409601

In 1960, Hurricane Donna started as a tropical wave in Africa. Then, she traveled over the ocean, ripped through the Antilles, and hit every state on the East Coast. Although the most damage was done to Florida, the storm caused lots of structural damage in Massachusetts as well as many other areas.

Gusts recorded at Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts were measured at 135 mph, while gusts at the New Bedford Airport hit 110 mph in a sheltered area. Overall, the storm's highest winds were 160 mph. Donna roamed the area for 17 days, and this storm still holds the longest record for maintaining major hurricane status in the Atlantic basin—nine days.

6. The President’s Day Storm (2003)

This storm covered Boston to Washington DC with massive amounts of snow. That caused the closure of most airports in the area, and the weight of the snow also damaged a number of historical structures. In fact, it snowed for two days solid in Boston. As a result, this February storm surpassed the snowfall record set in the Blizzard of '78 and created an all-time snowfall record for the city with 27.6 inches of snow.

7. The April's Fools Day Blizzard (1997)


April Fool's Day Blizzard snowfall accumulation map
By Transferred by Allwham (talk) 14:51, 16 September 2010 (UTC) - NOAA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11504045

At first, many thought the weather reports were an April Fool's Day joke, and even after the snow fell, many people continued to refer to this storm a prank from Mother Nature. It was so late in the season that stores weren't selling shovels and the cities had put away their snow plows for the spring.

However, after two feet of snow accumulated, these essentials were brought back out. The Massachusetts Governor was not joking when he declared a state of emergency, and hundreds of thousands of people probably didn't find it funny at all when they lost power.

8. Hurricane Diane (1955)


Rainfall totals from Hurricane Diane
By David Roth, Weather Prediction Center, Camp Springs, Maryland - WPC tropical cyclone rainfall data, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=717294

Hurricane Diane brought 19.75 inches of rain to Massachusetts, and that won this storm the award of "wettest storm" to ever hit the state. Tragically, Diane also caused 77 deaths and $110 million in damage in Massachusetts.

9. 1953 Worcester Tornado


Damage at Assumption College (now Quinsigamond Community College, Assumption moved its campus southwest) from the Worcester tornado of 1953.
By NWS Employee - NWS Taunton, MA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6028970

Although Massachusetts is far from tornado alley, this area has also experienced some deadly tornadoes in additional to the usual line up of blizzards and hurricanes. The worst tornado to ever hit the area was in 1953. The storm caused $52 million in damage and killed 94 people while injuring an additional 1,000. Whipping across nearly 50 miles of Central Massachusetts, this tornado was on the ground for an hour and a half, and it was part of a cluster of storms that hit the area over a three-day period.

10. Blizzard of 2015


Snowfall at Woodman’s of Essex
National Guard

In January 2015, another blizzard struck the area. It brought snow rivaling the April Fool's Day snowstorm to Boston, but in nearby Worcester, the snow hit a local record with nearly three feet (34.5 inches) of snow. Flooding also abounded in the area.

11. Hurricane Bob (1991)


This image shows Hurricane Bob approaching New England on August 19 at 1226 UTC.
By NOAA CLASS - http://www.class.noaa.gov/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69324786

In August 1991, just a few months before the perfect storm, Hurricane Bob made landfall in Massachusetts. This Category 2 hurricane included 115 mph winds and caused 15-feet waves in Buzzards Bay. It also lead to 50-feet of beach erosion in Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

12. The Microburst of 2014

In 2014, a microburst hit Massachusetts with winds up to 100 mph. What's a microburst? It's a storm that moves like a tornado but in the opposite direction. Technically, it's an intense and powerful thunderstorm less than 2.5 miles long that has the power to do a lot of damage along the earth's surface and to aviation in the area.

For most, the storm was an uneventful affair that lead to wind damage and hail. However, 20,000 people in the region lost power, and two women were fatally struck by lightning while swimming at Crane Beach.

13. The Great Colonial Hurricane (1935)


Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale
By Brian R. Jarvinen - Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22471274

In 1635, the eye of the great Colonial Hurricane passed through Boston and Plymouth. Considered to be America's first recorded natural disaster, the storm brought in 115 mph winds and tides that were 14 feet higher than normal. At least 46 people deaths were recorded, but it's likely that many more people perished in this storm, which also brought down trees and houses. There wasn't another storm of this magnitude recorded in the area until 180 years later in 1815.

14. Winter Storm Riley (2018)


Woodman’s of Essex sees massive flooding

2018 brought another nor’easter to New England’s shores, the second in as many months, with high tide at Boston Harbor nearly breaking the 15’ record at 14.67’ and making the top 5 high tides of all time on March 3rd. Boston streets flooded, and businesses on the North Shore were heavily affected. Winds reached 60 mph and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported that statewide, approximately 160,000 residents lost power to their homes.


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