|Tropical storm (SSHWS/NWS)|
|Formed||August 29, 1972|
|Dissipated||September 5, 1972|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained: 70 mph (110 km/h) |
|Lowest pressure||993 mbar (hPa); 29.32 inHg|
|Damage||$1.78 million (1972 USD)|
|Areas affected||U.S. East Coast, New England|
|Part of the 1972 Atlantic hurricane season|
Tropical Storm Carrie was the third named storm of the 1972 Atlantic hurricane season. Carrie formed in late August and persisted into September, dissipating on September 5. The second named storm to make U.S. landfall, Carrie made landfall in Maine on September 4 after reaching a peak intensity of 70 mph (113 km/h). After landfall, Carrie dissipated over Atlantic Canada the following day.
The origins of Tropical Storm Carrie are traced back to a tropical wave that emerged from the western coast of Africa on August 15, 1972, and entered the Atlantic Ocean. A relatively strong weather system, the wave progressed westward, but by the time it had reached the Leeward Islands ten days later, it had degenerated substantially. The influence of a nearby upper-level low pressure system caused the disturbance to further deteriorate, and the resultant remnant circulation drifted toward the northwest; by August 28, it was situated at a position just offshore southeastern Florida. The low pressure system maintained a cold core and had not yet established itself at the surface. On August 29, the low began moving northward in response to an approaching trough. For the first time, a low-level circulation center had been identified in association with the system, and the storm became a tropical depression at 1200 UTC while located east of the central Florida peninsula. The depression tracked steadily northeastward as it gradually intensified.
On August 31, reconnaissance aircraft flying into the cyclone reported sustained winds of up to around 55 miles per hour (89 km/h). Post-storm reanalysis estimates the depression had strengthened into a tropical storm at around 0000 UTC on August 31. Operationally, however, it was not recognized as such and assigned the name Carrie until 2200 UTC that day, when it was located approximately 350 miles (560 km) east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. A physically small storm, Carrie slowed drastically in forward movement as it curved northward. By the time it was identified as a tropical storm in real-time, Carrie had already reached its initial peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (97 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 1,002 millibars (29.6 inHg), and hostile conditions surrounding the tropical cyclone inhibited immediate further maturation as it continue to slow to a drift. On September 1, Carrie began to weaken, and by early on September 2, it had dwindled to a minimal tropical storm with winds of only 40 mph (64 km/h). Satellite imagery indicated that the storm's center of circulation had become distorted with little or no associated convection. At its weakest, the storm's highest winds were found far from the center, likely generated more by the increasing pressure gradient in relation to an anticyclone to the north than by Carrie itself.
A low pressure system moving through the Mid-Atlantic states pulled Carrie northwest, back toward the United States East Coast, at an accelerated forward speed. By later on September 2, the storm had begun to show signs of reorganization, including an improved appearance on satellite imagery and the development of some thunderstorm activity, although significant reintensification was considered unlikely. However, with the advance of a trough embedded in the westerlies, Carrie quickly deepened under the influence of baroclinic processes, and while the storm's maximum sustained winds increased, it also began to shed its tropical characteristics and begin to resemble an extratropical cyclone. Moving once again toward the north-northeast, Carie was declared extratropical by the National Hurricane Center during the late afternoon on September 2. In the official Atlantic Hurricane Database, however, Carrie is listed as a tropical cyclone until 1800 UTC on September 3, at which point it possessed winds of 70 mph (110 km/h) and a central barometric pressure of 993 mb (29.3 inHg). As a result, these data are considered representative of the storm's peak intensity. Regardless of its status, the storm was a large and intense system as it progressed north and neared New England, generating strong winds and rough surf along the coast. Having fully transitioned into an extratropical system, the storm made landfall near Eastport, Maine on September 4 and slowly weakened as it continued north up the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
In response to the pressure gradient between Carrie and the high pressure area to its north producing gusty northeasterly winds, and by extension high seas, the National Weather Service issued small craft warnings starting on September 1 and extending from Massachusetts to the Carolinas. Gale warnings were posted the next day from southern New Jersey to the coast of central New England, and the small craft warnings were brought north to Maine. Ongoing, as well as the threat as continued heavy rainfall necessitated the issuance of flash flood watches throughout eastern Massachusetts, southeastern New Hampshire, and southern and central Maine on September 3. Due to rough surf, the beach at Virginia Beach, Virginia was closed to swimmers on August 31.
Carrie had minimal effects on the East Coast south of the Mid-Atlantic states, limited to moderate winds and generally light rainfall. Precipitation at Norfolk, Virginia reached 1.12 inches (28 mm) between September 1 and 3, and pressure fell to a modest 29.88 inHg (1,012 mb). Sustained winds were recorded at 28 mph (45 km/h), with only slightly higher gusts, although the Chesapeake Light reported unofficial gusts to near 50 mph (80 km/h). Damage in the area was minimal with the exception of beach erosion, and tides 2.5 feet (0.76 m) above normal triggered minor flooding. Moderate rainfall, approaching or reaching 5 in (130 mm), fell across the southern Delmarva Peninsula. Equally minor effects were felt in the Atlantic City, New Jersey, area, with comparable or even less significant reports of winds and rainfall and damages limited to coastal flooding and beach erosion. The local resort industry suffered economical losses due to a portion of the Labor Day weekend seeing adverse weather from the storm, which impacted tourism.
The brunt of the storm occurred in southeastern New England, particularly coastal Massachusetts, where strong gusts battered the shore. The distribution of winds resulting from the storm more closely resembled a nor'easter than a cyclone of tropical origin, which would typically be concentrated close to its center. Instead, the strongest winds remained well removed from the center of circulation, but were nonetheless severe; gusts reached 84 mph (135 km/h) at Point Judith, Rhode Island, and 69 mph (111 km/h) on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Sustained winds throughout the region were generally below 50 mph (80 km/h). In Boston, Massachusetts, winds gusted to 46 mph (74 km/h). The storm brought down trees and powerlines, blocking roads and damaging property. Structural damage was also evident, especially to buildings under construction, and an entire cottage in Rockland, Maine was blown off its foundation.
Rainfall in southeastern New England was heavy, locally exceeding 10 in (250 mm). On the island of Martha's Vineyard, a storm total of 12.5 in (320 mm) was reported, the highest known precipitation sum resulting from Carrie. The most torrential rains were usually confined to within 70 mi (110 km) of the coast. The deluge swelled streams, inundated cellars, and washed out a railroad near Eagle Lake, Maine, derailing a train. Along the coast, rough surf caused beach erosion and swamped hundreds of small craft. On September 3, choppy conditions forced the suspension of steamship services to and from the mainland and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Thousands of tourists and seasonal residents became stranded on the islands, creating what officials described as a "logistical problem". During the height of the storm, around 20,000 Narragansett Electric Company customers lost power, with scattered power outages reported elsewhere throughout New England.
In general, damage from Tropical Storm Carrie and its extratropical remnants was light. Total monetary damage was estimated at $1,780,000, of which $1,200,000 in losses was inflicted on Massachusetts. Losses totaled $350,000 in Rhode Island, $200,000 in Maine, and $30,000 in New Hampshire. Four fatalities were attributed to the storm, two the aftermath of boating accidents in Massachusetts, and two the result of rough surf along the coast of Maine.
After Carrie's impact on the Northeast United States, the population of Alexandrium fundyense (a poisonous form of algae native to Bay of Fundy) increased significantly and was blanketing the waters off the coast of New England. Scientists suggest that strong currents stirred by the storm had washed the algae further south. Since then, the species Alexandrium fundyense had bloomed every year.