Thirty years ago this week, ML Baron filled his van with provisions — deviled ham and two 30-packs of Coors Light — fired up his shoebox-sized cell phone, parked next to the New Bedford, Massachusetts, waterfront, and waited for Hurricane Bob.
He left before dawn, so his bosses couldn’t tell him to stay home. As the wind picked up, the tourists and thrill-seekers thinned out and then disappeared altogether, recalled Mr. Baron, 63, who operates a weather station in Fairhaven, near Cape Cod, and broadcast that day through WMBH, an AM radio station.
“Before I know it, I look out and say, ‘Jesus, I’m all alone.’ I say to myself, how bad is this going to get?” he remembered. “I say, ‘Well, I made my choice when I got up at 3 a.m.'”
As he peered through the windshield, he saw road signs flapping and making an unearthly whooshing sound; the van began to vibrate as if there were a crowd around it trying to overturn it. The wind was blowing so hard, Mr. Baron said, that he could no longer hear the sounds of crashing debris, and the scene outside was swept away by showers of rain.
“It’s almost a paradox; all you can hear is the wind,” he said. “You might as well be in a cocoon.”
Hurricane Bob, in 1991, remains the last hurricane to make landfall in New England. As Henri approached the region like a hurricane before being downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday morning, the memories came flooding back.
Bob caused $680 million in damage, cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes, caused the deaths of more than a dozen people, and changed Cape Cod’s shoreline.
Cleaning up was a process of weeks. Boats that washed up to a mile inland had to be hoisted up by helicopters, sailed back and splashed into the water. There was a strange, sweet smell of shattered trees and foliage baking in the sun. Hordes of yellow jackets and hornets had been driven from their nests. They circulated, angry and stinging.
The wind had torn houses in Mattapoisett, a town on Buzzards Bay, and Mr. Baron remembers encountering people’s belongings in unlikely places as he drove around after the storm. “I had a cut out teddy bear the size of a fridge in the middle of Causeway Road, desks, a real toilet,” he said.
Mr Baron, who is now retired, said he would be monitoring Henri from his home on West Island, near New Bedford, from a room he has outfitted with so much equipment that he calls it the “Crystal Palace.” ‘ calls. There will be no beer. (“I grew up a long time ago,” he said.)
But he said he would follow it up on his website and that he looked forward to those hours or days when everyone’s attention was focused on one thing: the immense power of nature.
“You’d be surprised what you forget when there’s a hurricane overhead,” he said.