Twenty-five years ago, a confluence of weather systems created a large and intense storm so meteorologically unusual it was dubbed “the perfect storm.” What came together to create this scenario was a strengthening low in the area of the Canadian Maritimes which absorbed and subsequently became energized by the remnants of Hurricane Grace. This intense low pressure system and strong high pressure over eastern Canada formed a pressure gradient which brought incredibly high seas and strong winds to parts of eastern New England. This storm reached peak intensity of 972 millibars as it slowly drifted toward the New England coastline.

The surface weather map from October 20th 1991

The surface weather map from October 30, 1991 NOAA

High winds lashed the coastline with several towns in Massachusetts recording winds near or above hurricane force. For example, gusts of 78 mph at Chatham, 74 mph at Thatcher Island and 68 mph at Marblehead, and 63 mph at Newport, Rhode Island, all caused some damage and power outages.

President George H.W. Bush’s home on Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport sustained damage during this storm. During this storm, according to a story in the New York Times, “Waves as high as his three-story house filled the house with sea water and caused extensive damage to the retreat on Walker’s Point in southern Maine”

Debris washed up the entrance to President Bush's summer home

Debris washed up the entrance to President Bush’s summer home.

As the storm moved back out to sea, it re-intensified and became a full-fledged hurricane. The satellite image below shows how tight the circulation of the storm had become. The National Weather Service never renamed the storm. It would have been hurricane Henri, and while the records only show 7 named storms that year, there should have been 8.

An extratropical low pressure system become a hurricane on November 1st 1991

An extratropical low pressure system become a hurricane on November 1, 1991 NOAA

I remember working at WTIC in Connecticut at the time and seeing the wave reports off the coast. I was amazed at the height of the seas from the storm. A buoy off the coast of Nova Scotia reported a wave height of 100.7 ft (30.7 m), the highest ever recorded in the province’s offshore waters. As a result of the book and subsequent movie, “The Perfect Storm,” the most famous casualty was likely the the Andrea Gail which sank, killing its crew of six.