Hurricane Carol, one of the worst to hit New England, was so ferocious the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration retired the name for a decade after it struck in 1954.
Strong, sustained winds swept through Rhode Island and the eastern parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, killing dozens and destroying buildings, automobiles, boats and crops. The storm took out power for days, Gov. Dennis Roberts declared martial law in Rhode Island and called up the National Guard.
Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine suffered as well, though to a lesser extent. In New England, 65 people died in the storm and a thousand were injured.
The Birth of Hurricane Carol
Hurricane Carol started on Aug. 25, 1954, as a tropical wave near the Bahamas, and strengthened as it moved northwest. On August 27, meteorologists clocked Carol’s winds at 105 mph. The hurricane then moved northeast, flooding the mid-Atlantic coast.
On August 31, Carol sped up and slammed into Old Saybrook, Conn. The next day, Carol morphed into an extratropical cyclone over northern New England.
At the storm’s height, winds gusted up to 125 mph, blowing roofs off houses in Rhode Island. The hurricane flooded downtown Providence with up to 12 feet of water. Winds on Block Island reached 135 mph, the highest ever recorded there.
In Boston, Hurricane Carol tore off the spire of the Old North Church. Donations from children across America rebuilt it the next year.
National Guardsmen flew a planeload of dry ice to Boston for people who lost power and had no refrigeration. Gov. Christian Herter called up guardsmen in six Massachusetts towns to prevent looting. Cape Cod was evacuated, with 20,000 people leaving the peninsula.
Damage from Hurricane Carol approximated $642 million, making it the costliest storm up to that point. The hurricane destroyed nearly 40 percent of fruit and vegetable crops — apples, peaches, corn and tomatoes. A third of New Englanders lost power, many for days.
The storm damaged more than 10,000 homes, completely destroying 1,545. Another 3,000 boats and 3,500 automobiles were wrecked. Carol caused such destruction it was the first Atlantic hurricane name to be retired. It made a comeback 10 years later, only to be retired again.
Then 12 days later came Hurricane Edna.
This story was updated in 2018. You may also want to read about the Great New England storm of 1938 here.