Hurricane Bob, one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit Cape Cod, tore through the region 25 years ago today.
Although Buzzards Bay and Falmouth took the brunt of the damage, Sandwich suffered damage and felt effects which lasted for weeks.
In the prelude to the storm, visitors and a number of residents fled over the Bourne and Sagamore bridges for safety. Those who remained took refuge in houses, basements, and community centers.
Special Web Page
Visit our archives page to see "Remembering Hurricane Bob," which features the original stories and photographs that ran in the Enterprise in 1991.
During the storm, the iconic boardwalk at Town Neck Beach was completely destroyed, and Sandwich beaches were heavily eroded. Many cottages also sustained heavy damage, while a number were washed away.
“There were high winds which whipped trees along the highway, one of the high points in town,” said assistant director of natural resources, David J. DeConto, who worked at an insurance company at the time. “Driving during the storm was almost impossible.”
Residents in Sandwich lost power for a week. Brian Gallant, the director of emergency management in Sandwich, said homes remained dark not only during the storm, but for an entire week.
He was stationed at the fire station on Route 6A, and had a personal cell phone at the time, a rare occurrence in 1991. “We were using the phone to call other towns and departments, coordinating relief efforts,” he said.
Many residents in Sandwich did not have home generators, so they had to cook with charcoal or propane. Mr. DeConto recalled making coffee every morning on his grill with his neighbors, an act far removed from the modern luxury of drip machines and percolators.
High winds which tore apart ecosystems in Sandwich also displaced natural populations of insects and animals. “There were bees everywhere,” Mr. DeConto said, “You’d see utility workers with a tool in their right hand, and a can of insect killer in the other.”
The Sandwich DPW worked for weeks removing fallen branches, trees, power lines, and clearing roads.
“The entire cleanup took weeks,” Mr. DeConto said.
The week after the storm brought hot temperatures as well. Residents of Sandwich were left in the sweltering August heat without air conditioning or electric fans. Stores were closed as well, as many did not have generators. Mr. Gallant remembered Angelo’s, a grocery store in Sandwich at the time, was closed for weeks. “We didn’t have any place to go for food,” he said. “We had to leave the Cape just to go grocery shopping.”
Mr. Gallant also said many take the modern amenities we have for granted, and do not appreciate them until they are gone. “We get used to showers, heat, and electricity too easily,” he said. “It’s pretty difficult after a few days without them.”
Mr. Gallant said that new technologies have made dealing with natural disasters easier. “With Twitter, Facebook and e-mail, we can share information faster among departments and organizations in town. More people have smartphones, generators and storm radios.”
Hurricane Bob and its effects also brought the community together in many ways. “During storms like that, we see neighbors and friends sharing resources and helping each other out,” said Mr. DeConto. “It really brings out the best in people.”
Mr. DeConto also said that 25 years later Sandwich is better prepared for any weather thrown its way. “We learn more each time about what we should do with disaster preparedness,” he said.
Because of Cape Cod’s northern location, hurricanes hit the peninsula less often than the southeastern United States or the Caribbean. The Cape is more prone to northeasters, which tend to arrive in winter.
Mr. DeConto said that Sandwich should not let its guard down, because another storm like Bob could occur.
“We’ve been fortunate recently, the weather has been favorable. Who knows how long that could last?” he asked.