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Recollections of a Disaster. 63 Years Ago, Hurricane Carol. August 31, 1954.

Recollections of a Disaster. 63 Years Ago, Hurricane Carol. August 31, 1954.

Former Kingman Marina owner Thomas “Todd” Kingman recently recounted his memories of living through the epic hurricane Carol as a young man. His chilling recollections are excerpted below.

“Hurricane Carol hit Cape Cod with 155 mph+ winds. Our anemometer blew away when a gust stuck the needle at 176. Looking SW out of 2nd floor of the Kingman Marina lighthouse window, a wall of water resembling a drive-in movie screen stretched from Scraggy Neck across Buzzard’s Bay to Mattapoisett. Six guys in the boatyard and me, age 13, had to swim for about 300 feet when surge hit. From the time it took to run down the stairs and take about 7 steps on the pavement the water had reached above my ankles. Another 4-5 steps and the water was over my head.

The surge carried us eastward and then back westward, back and forth as the surge reverberated from hitting the east side high ground at the railroad embankment. Waves in the parking lot ranging from 4-6 feet above the 6-7 foot storm surge. One of the men shoved me underwater as windblown sheets of plywood were cartwheeling all around thru the air. Thankfully no one was hit as an edge would have cut thru a body like a knife thru butter.

Suddenly, the winds stopped and the sky cleared as we swam NW to high ground. And just in time, as winds shortly began blowing 125 MPH+ from the SW as south side edge of the eye wall roared north. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, winds decreased slowly as they swung north and as late as 11 PM still gusted at 75 mph or more. Finally, at about 1:30 AM under a full moon and eerily calm wind, Red Brook Harbor appeared to be empty of water because the tide was so low.

I recall an amazing amount of shoreline damages. Numerous Herroshoff 12’s jammed high up and resting in branches between Cedar trees on Bassetts Island. It took about three years before all were salvaged using planks, rollers, wooden cradles and manual labor. Up high on the Southern tip of Bassett’s was the first floor, and part of the second floor of a house that the tidal surge had carried from Fairhaven or Mattapoisett, depending on who was telling it. At Moody’s turkey farm, where the Lobster Trap is now, 1000’s of turkey carcasses were caught up in the cedar trees. This was our daily school bus view. And my, oh my, where did all the waterfront piers go?

I remember sitting by the Canal days later and watching the homes flow by. There was a big fire on Main Street in Wareham, and the water was so high fire trucks could not get to the burning buildings. Bassetts Island had washed through and the high, thick dune was gone. Sunken boats were everywhere and we spent months salvaging them. A cement barge washed ashore at Scraggy Neck and survived there until the ice of the late 60’s.

You could not have lived through that storm without experiencing some sort of post-traumatic stress. It turned our world upside down.

Two weeks later, Hurricane Edna struck on September 11th ….”

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