Hurricane Carol 1954 by Suzanne Paull Carter
Rain beating on our roof and pelting our windows aroused us early the morning of August 31st. The accompanying wind was dashing white caps along our dock and Lynn felt we must secure our boats more carefully before he left for work in Providence.
We fed the three children and left them playing with their toys in front of the fireplace fire as we gathered anchors and ropes to reinforce the boats. It was a very difficult row out to our sailboat, “The Little Red Hen,” which we had worked on for 3 months – redoing it with a fiberglass coating and just launched August 1st.
After securing the sailboat to our best ability, Lynn really tied up the rowboat with many lines – a fact that later I’m sure saved my life for when I later saw my brother Tom’s sailboat being blown away, followed by ours, I tried to untie the rowboat to go and rescue the two sailboats! I couldn’t untie the lines; I could never have rowed out and rescued these boats.
I called my sister-in-law, Dorothy Paull who lived up the street to tell her their boat was disappearing, and replied, “For Heaven’s Sake, Let it go!”
Very shortly she drove down and took our three children: Skip age 8, Dave age 6, Susie age 1, up the street to safety. By then the water was coming well up the backyard, and I was out in the storm pulling the remaining boats that we had on the dock further and further up the lawn.
When the “Periwinkle Inn”, the DeNadal’s 30-foot guest house started to float, I was sure it was going to ram our Little House and smash it to bits. I rushed inside but didn’t know what to try to save. Furthermore sewer gas was backing up in the house and we had no electricity!
I called Lynn at Brown and Sharpe in Providence and told him how bad it was, and he said he’d leave there for home at once. That was the last call to go through.
As Providence soon was flooded he made it out from there, but had a wild ride home trying to find roads not blocked by fallen trees.
Lynn arrived home at noon and took the one very impressive picture of the ocean and boats floating in front of Tom’s house. Then the storm’s eye went over us, and it returned full force coming from the East. This flooding brought the steps of the Paquachuck Inn and deposited them in our backyard with Tripp’s Boat Yards building’s roofs, outhouse, destroyed boats, debris of all kinds mixed with poison ivy from the dunes.
Much went on of curious sightseers. One very dramatic one: across the street on the steps of our neighbor John Kenny’s house protected by the bay window, which was large enough for him to sit in a rocking chair and knit his nets, a tall woman huddled. She was completely dressed in black which added to her forlornness. I went over to ask if she was alright. She wept as she said her mother and father were at East Beach and would not come with her to safety. I never knew if they survived or not. (Our garages had been used as a morgue in the “38 hurricane. I don’t know how many were “lost” in this storm, Carol.)
When the storm was over everyone went searching for their boats; ours had ended up blown under the bridge with the mast snapped and rammed thru the bottom of it!
Laura’s Restaurant was washed up the East Branch near the marsh and so word went out that Jim Hickey, the bartender, was still in the building. Buddy Squire had come to see the damage to the boats and he had heavy rope in his car. Volunteers lined up to row out and rescue Hickey (a big rat was sharing his air space at the peak of the restaurant!) It was a dramatic rescue.
The strong tide not only took Laura’s Restaurant, but the gift shop belonging to the Judson’s. It was situated in a very vulnerable location not far from the end of the old Bridge on the road to Plant’s Pavilion and Baker’s & Earle’s Beach. It washed past the Cranberry House and many articles of all sorts washed up the river and into the marshes. Two cloth dolls “made it” to our backyard. I rescued and washed them and named them Hurricane Carol and Hurricane Edna, which storm came to haunt us the following week.
The following day people came to try to get their boats off our dock; and after pulling the rocks off our dock into the the river and finding how damaged their boats were, gave up and left them for us to dispose of.
We had just recovered from Carol when Hurricane Edna, “blew in”; fortunately not as bad, not high tide.
It was all of two weeks that we were without electricity as the wires were cut from the house and it had to be inspected before we could be hooked up.
The storm had flooded our basement and just started to come up to the back door – how frightening!
The Perriwinkle Inn had settled down somewhat on our property, but we were very ‘close’ and fond neighbors and that was the way we left it until the later owners gave the Inn to Dave Lees.
As we had a huge fireplace and iron kettles to cook with, like our ancestors, and had a well to draw water from, we fared better than many other “victims” of Hurricane Carol. Then too, we were allowed to swim at the beach for which we were very grateful.