The Terrifying True Story of the Perfect Storm: History, Science of Storms (1997)



The 1991 Perfect Storm was also known as the Halloween Nor’easter of 1991, and (especially in the years immediately after it took place) as The No-Name Storm. About the book:

It was a nor’easter that absorbed Hurricane Grace and ultimately evolved back into a small unnamed hurricane late in its life cycle.

The initial area of low pressure developed off Atlantic Canada on October 28. Forced southward by a ridge to its north, it reached its peak intensity as a large and powerful cyclone. The storm lashed the East Coast of the United States with high waves and coastal flooding, before turning to the southwest and weakening. Moving over warmer waters, the system transitioned into a subtropical cyclone before becoming a tropical storm. It executed a loop off the Mid-Atlantic states and turned toward the northeast. On November 1 the system evolved into a full-fledged hurricane with peak winds of 75 miles per hour (120 km/h), although the National Hurricane Center left it unnamed to avoid confusion amid media interest in the predecessor extratropical storm. It later received the name “the Perfect Storm” after a conversation between Boston National Weather Service forecaster Robert Case and author Sebastian Junger. The system was the fourth hurricane and final tropical cyclone in the 1991 Atlantic hurricane season. The tropical system weakened, striking Nova Scotia as a tropical storm before dissipating.

Damage from the Perfect Storm totaled over $200 million (1991 USD)[1] and the death toll was thirteen. Most of the damage occurred while the storm was extratropical, after waves up to 30 feet (10 m) struck the coastline from Canada to Florida and southeastward to Puerto Rico. In Massachusetts, where damage was heaviest, over 100 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. To the north, more than 100 homes were affected in Maine, including the vacation home of then-President George H. W. Bush. More than 38,000 people were left without power, and along the coast high waves inundated roads and buildings. In portions of New England, damage was worse than that caused by Hurricane Bob two months earlier.

Aside from tidal flooding along rivers, the storm’s effects were primarily concentrated along the coast. A buoy off the coast of Nova Scotia reported a wave height of 100.7 feet (30.7 m), the highest ever recorded in the province’s offshore waters. In the middle of the storm, the Andrea Gail sank, killing its crew of six and inspiring the book, and later movie, The Perfect Storm. Off the shore of New York’s Long Island, an Air National Guard helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed; four members of its crew were rescued, and one was killed. Two people died after their boat sank off Staten Island. High waves swept two people to their deaths, one in Rhode Island and one in Puerto Rico, and another person was blown off a bridge to his death. The tropical cyclone that formed late in the storm’s duration caused little impact, limited to power outages and slick roads; one person was killed in Newfoundland from a traffic accident related to the storm.

The storm and the boat’s sinking became the center-piece for Sebastian Junger’s best-selling non-fiction book The Perfect Storm (1997), which was adapted to a major Hollywood film in 2000 as The Perfect Storm starring George Clooney.