Nor'easter sends enormous waves crashing over beachfront homes

·6 min read

With each nor'easter Roger Ritch experiences, he likes to pretend that he's in a lighthouse three miles offshore rather than in the house bordering the seawall in Marshfield, Massachusetts. The boarded windows block the view of the ocean, but he can still hear the rumbling, followed by a few seconds of respite before another wave slams against the wall.

"What happens here is the water hits the seawall, goes straight up, covers our house but also covers the house in back," Ritch told Storm Chaser Brandon Clement, motioning to the front of his neighbor's home across the street. He had been in the process of boarding up the windows when Clement approached him.

Late Tuesday night, peak wind gusts as high as 87 mph were reported at Scituate, Massachusetts. Additionally, gusts of 83 mph were recorded in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Video footage captured by Clement showed powerful winds blasting coastal New England areas in what looked like scenes straight out of a hurricane.

Ritch was one of the countless people across the northeastern United States that braced for an early-season nor'easter that doused the region in rain and featured strong winds that ripped some of the colorful foliage off the trees across the region.

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Nor'easters are often associated with snow, but this week's storm featured only rain, although it still had the defining quality to make it a nor'easter -- the direction of the wind. Some of the strongest winds blew from the northeast which churned up rough seas along the coast and localized power outages across the region.

According to M.L. Baron, a weather station operator in Massachusetts, this nor'easter could have been a "catastrophic blizzard" had it occurred during the winter. Speaking with The New York Times, Baron said a winterized version of this storm would have set the region back for weeks.

Even still, Baron said "the damage and destruction hurricane-force winds can deliver" from the storm have left widespread damage in his area of Fairhaven. In nearby Duxbury, the local fire department received 90 distress calls on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, The New York Times reported, largely due to downed trees and power lines.

Massachusetts Wind Gusts List 10/27

"This storm really rivaled some of the hurricane impacts that we've had across southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter said. "I'm a New Englander and we're used to big storms in New England, but this was an impressive storm."

In New Bedford, Massachusetts, a parked plane found itself relocated to the middle a road after strong winds picked up the aircraft from New Bedford Regional Airport. According to social media reports, the plane was damaged after smashing against a tree and being carried over the airport's fence.

Wind gusts of over 100 mph were recorded in the nearby town of Duxbury, while the highest gust of the day was reported in the Cape Cod town of Truro, which reached 113 mph.

These gusts rivaled the wind readings atop Mount Washington, New Hampshire, which stands at an elevation of 6,267 feet. The observatory on Mount Washington is known to be one of the windiest spots in the U.S. when a major storm passes overhead. Wind gusts overnight Tuesday peaked at a blustery 81 mph.

On Tuesday, the storm underwent a process called "bombogenesis," which occurs when a storm's central pressure drops by at least 0.71 of an inch of mercury (24 millibars) within 24 hours. The storm just barely met the criteria on Tuesday, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Isaac Longely.

The East Coast bomb cyclone was not as powerful as the one that bombarded California with over a foot of rain and hurricane-force winds, but it was still enough to cause disruptions and power outages across the region.

Over 490,000 were without power in Massachusetts early Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.us. An additional 92,000 customers were without power in Rhode Island.

"We definitely weren't planning on buying umbrellas and trudging around in rain boots, but it's Salem at Halloween time, so what are you gonna do? You tough it out," Ashley Rodhe told AccuWeather National News reporter Kim Leoffler. Rodhe was visiting Salem, Massachusetts, on Tuesday to enjoy what the city has to offer in the Halloween season.

"The weather and the spookiness definitely adds to the whole Halloween vibe that we were coming for," Michaela Quarm added.

Some of the outdoor Halloween festivities in Salem were canceled on Tuesday due to the nor'easter, but museums and shops remained open for visitors.

Elsewhere in the Northeast, the rain and wind were more disruptive.

A month's worth of rain fell at Islip, New York, on Tuesday with 3.98 inches of water reported at the airport. Typically, 3.97 inches of rain falls in Islip in all of October. This broke the old record daily rainfall set in 1981 of 1.50 inches.

Additional daily rainfall records were set across the region, including in Binghamton, Syracuse and Kennedy, New York.

Examining the impacts to New York state, locations such as Long Island, New York, and the hills surrounding the lower Hudson Valley were hit the hardest, explained AccuWeather On-Air Broadcast Meteorologist Geoffrey Cornish.

On eastern Long Island, locations such as Ridge, New York, recorded a 24-hour rainfall total of 5.94 inches by late Tuesday night. The highest observed rainfall total from the nor'easter came in at 8.69 inches in Baiting Hollow, New York.

A rare flash flood emergency was issued in Moravia and Locke, New York, on Tuesday afternoon after a water gage at Owasco Inlet reached major flood stage. The inlet crested just above 11 feet early Tuesday night, nearly 2 feet higher than what is considered major flood stage, before falling to around 9.5 feet by Wednesday morning.

As the nor'easter continues to move away from the U.S., another storm will follow in its wake.

"While another storm is forecast to track into the Northeast late this week, it will likely not be considered a nor'easter as the system will be weakening before it reaches the Northeast," Longley said. "Regardless of the strength of this system, it will still bring some impacts to the region such as locally heavy rainfall and gusty winds."

The pair of storms will spell an end to leaf-peeping season across much of the Northeast as the wind and rain tear leaves off the trees. Most of the popular foliage-viewing destinations in New England were already past peak colors before the arrival of the early week nor'easter, but the rounds of drenching rain and blustery winds will suggest the end of colorful landscapes until next autumn.

Additional reporting by Kim Leoffler.

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