By Dan Hanson
Ocean City, MD. Despite the strong El Niņo during the winter of 1998, a series of strong Nor'easters pounded the Mid-Atlantic coast. The strongest occurred on February 4, 1998. The long duration of high winds and flooding tides made this storm the most damaging since the epic March 1962 Nor'easter.
Armed with my Hanson Anemometer, rain coat, NOAA weather radio, and video camera, I headed down to the Inlet parking area of Ocean City, MD to watch nature's fury, arriving in the early afternoon. The conditions were very uncomfortable: the temperature was around 40°F, light to occasionally moderate rain, and a NE wind averaging about 40 mph gusting 55 to 60. Tides were several feet above normal, causing flooding of low areas. Hardly a pleasant day at the beach!
Conditions continued to worsen into the afternoon as the winds increased and the tides rose. By 5 PM, the worst of the storm had arrived. Sustained winds on the Ocean City fishing pier were approaching 55 mph with gusts to 70. At 5:15 PM I measured a peak gust to 72.3 mph on my Hanson Anemometer - almost hurricane force! It was very difficult to stand on the pier. With the wind, the rain, and the frigid wind chill, being out in elements was almost dangerous to one's health. Nonetheless, being the extreme weather enthusiast that I am, it's something I had to do despite the risk! I managed to video tape much of the action, but I forgot to take any still photos - oops.
Fortunately I had the sense to spend most the time in the car (I would have had a nasty case of hypothermia if I didn't) with my car roof mounted anemometer. In the somewhat sheltered parking area, I measured a peak gust to 64.6 mph. I watched the pounding surf break over the jetties which produced magnificant spray as the winds carried the water a hundred feet or more. The tides slowly rose and inched there way across the parking lot making me increasing nervous as the afternoon wore on.
As darkness fell, I decided to call it a day as the forecasted evening high tide was supposed to be 6 feet above normal, meaning Ocean City was no place to be. The strong winds only slowly abated through the next 24 hours. Two more flooding high tides occurred before the system pulled away up the coast.
This nor'easter was certainly the worst storm I have witnessed in Ocean city. It also set my current record for the highest wind gust I have measured by hand (72.3 mph). However, I still looking for that storm which will get me that hurricane-force gust!