Chasing Hurricane Edouard to Cape Cod

By Dan Hanson

Yarmouth, Mass. Monday, September 2, 1996. Only one word can describe the experience: AWESOME! Though the center of the hurricane passed well east of me the storm was still very impressive. Though I did not get to experience actual hurricane conditions, the tropical storm conditions were sufficient. Being my first glorified hurricane chase, I was excited about whole experience.

To be a storm chaser requires one to be rather spontaneous and spontaneous I was. Feeling disappointed that Edouard was by-passing Maryland, I had the burning need to intercept him. But there was only one problem: a 500 mile drive. Saturday evening I followed the northward course of Edouard hoping for a westward shift. I thought a day trip to the New Jersey coast on Sunday was manageable but Edouard continued due north. But come Sunday morning Edouard was showing a slight eastward drift that was directed towards Cape Cod so I decided, "I'm going to the Cape for the Labor Day weekend and so what about the 500-mile drive!" I packed an overnight bag, a laptop computer, a NOAA weather radio, and of course my anemometer and was on the road by 11:30 AM.

The Sunday evening forecast called for winds over 100 mph on the Cape which was a bit too dangerous so I did not want to get too close. My initial destination of Newport, RI was a bust when Edouard took a sharp turn to the ENE late Sunday night. So I embarked eastward to Cape Cod in search of hurricane conditions. When I left Newport at dawn on Monday, I took a quick observation: Light rain, temp 63, wind NNE 28 gusting to 45 mph.

I headed east on Rte 138 out of Newport towards I-195. The wind and rain began to gradually increase the further east I traveled. Driving was difficult to say the least. With blinding rain and winds gust over 60 mph, it was challenging to keep the car in one lane. Fortunately I was but one of the dozen or so other vehicles on the road the entire 100 miles to my destination.

Once on the Cape, I hopped on Rte 6A to search for a beach with northern exposure to Cape Cod Bay. This road became increasingly unnerving to traverse as the storm raged. Some parts of the road were complete covered in leaves and branches. Several large trees had also fallen. I was concerned of trees falling either in front of me or on me; fortunately neither happened. I stopped at a few beach front communities west of Barnstable but found no decent public areas to setup camp. I made the mistake of walking out on the beach and got sandblasted. I'm still trying to get all the sand out of my hair and ears. I did measure a wind gust 59 mph in the 30 seconds I stood there. The overhead power lines produced the most eary of moans in the gale.

Inspired by the intensity the wind, I headed further east past Barnstable in search of better observing conditions. I came across a perfect spot: a parking lot right next to the beach about 10 feet higher in elevation. The beach was very small so relatively less sand was blowing. It was a great spot. I got out of the car holding my anemometer and got blasted immediately. Needless to say, it was hard work trying to get a steady foot. My hand-held anemometer was whirling away at a steady 47 mph with gusts to 65. The sensation was I nothing had experienced before - simply awesome. The trees and power lines moaned, groaned and strained in the storm. I witnessed half a large tree fall in a big gust. The surf was nothing spectacular maybe 2 feet tops.

The heavy rain and sand stung as they slammed into me at 60 mph so I headed back into the car and mounted the anemometer out my sunroof. The car bounced around in the wind having the equivalent wind noise to driving down the highway. The anemometer whirled steady around 46 with gusts into the 60s. Heavy rain bands came and went. Tons of rain and sand managed to blow in the one inch opening in the sunroof. The inside of the car is covered in sand; it needs a major vacuuming job.. Plenty of sand in the door jams, window moldings - basically everywhere. I hope my paint job isn't ruined by the assault of the elements. It's going to need a serious power wash.

Several other people began showing up to share this experience. They were immediately drawn to my car seeing that I had an anemometer. They had to ask how hard it was blowing. Several said they had to have one of my anemometers so I passed out my business card and told them to call or E-mail for details. One person offered to buy the one I was using -- "No way!"

Next Isaac Rosen, a reporter from the Boston Globe, knocked on the window and wanted to interview me. So I invited him to sit with me in the car and watch the storm. We talked about fifteen minutes or so. He was fascinated by my invention. My quote, "Of course, I'm happy that no one's hurt... But I'm disappointed that it wasn't bigger. I love wind, the Power of Nature" headlined the article! (Boston Globe, 3 Sept 96, pp B7-B8).

About 45 minutes later, David Carson from the Providence Journal-Bulletin came by inquiring about the anemometer. He too wanted to know all about. He took several pictures of me standing out in the 60 mph wind gusts. (Providence Journal-Bulletin, 3 Sept 96, pg B6).

Around noon, Chris Perera, a TV reporter from channel 6 in Providence, Rhode Island, started filming and he too saw me out there. He and the camera man caught me off guard as the highest wind gust of the day (68 mph) occurred just seconds before. I turned around after being buffeted by the wind and the camera and mic were crammed in my face! I blurted a few corny things while he zoomed in the camera on the display of the anemometer. The whole clip lasted probably 10 seconds.

I hung around the park until about 1:30 PM when I felt that the storm had peaked and the winds were slowly decreasing though still gusting near 60. People regularly asked about the wind speed and my anemometer. I wish I had built several and had them with me as I'm sure I would have sold them all. But I got several business cards distributed so I've got my sales leads started.

On the way home I called my uncle and aunt in Providence just to let him know that I was passing through. I told them to look for me on the TV news that night. They invited me over for a visit since I had not seen him in over four years and I was only minutes away. I arrived there around 4:00 wanting stay no later than 5:30. But as things always go, I stayed for dinner and the evening news which did not air until 6:30. But it was worth it as I got to see myself on TV! Unfortunately, the reporter got my name wrong (Dan Mason) but just getting the free exposure was worth it. My uncle recorded it on his VCR so I got a tape of it. With all the visiting, I ended up not leaving there until 7:30PM which was way later than I wanted since I had 390 miles to go to return home. Traffic was light and there were no construction delays. I arrived home tired and weary just before 2:00AM Tuesday morning.

My Edouard chase experience was magnificent and one I will always remember. It gave me an appreciation for the power of the hurricane. While I did not measure hurricane force gusts, the power of a 68 mph gust is enough to speculate how an 80 or even a 100 mph wind would be like. Simply spectacular! Was it worth 1,058 miles of round trip travel in two days? Absolutely 100%. Would I do it again? You bet.

Wind observations for Hurricane Edouard: September 2, 1996. (Yarmouth, MA)

Time Miles of wind (mean speed)mph Peak gust
0900-0959 43.9 65
1000-1059 46.6 63
1100-1159 47.1 66
1200-1259 45.5 68
1300-1329 21.1 (mean=42.2) 62
TOTAL 204.2 68 (12:07 PM)

See information about the Hanson Anemometer mentioned in this article.