By Dan Hanson
Indian River, DE. October 8, 1996 - My growing addiction to hurricane chasing (and using my hand-held anemometer) drew me to the shores of Maryland and Delaware Tuesday evening to experience the power of T.S. Josephine. But commitments at work held me back until 4:30PM so I missed the worst of the storm. However, the gales were still howling into the evening.
The ride over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was eerie as the strong cross wind was play havoc with the structure. The bridge deck was visibly swaying and contorting in the wind! The sensation of moving up and down and side to side, like in a boat on rolling seas, was somewhat uncomfortable when you are 200 feet above the surface especially when in a car.
My first stop was the fishing pier at Matapeake State Park on Kent Island, Maryland, which juts a few hundred feet into the Chesapeake Bay about three miles south of the Bay Bridge. I stopped here as a test to see whether I would proceed further. For the ten minutes I was there the average wind speed was 32.2 mph and a peak gust to 47. The north winds were generating 3 to 4 feet waves. The winds were strong enough that I decided to continue on.
I took Rte 404 to head towards Rehobeth Beach. The winds seemed to increase a little more the further east I drove but not too much more. The strong cross winds made traveling past the open fields challenging. I arrived a Rebobeth around 7:30PM. Conditions were light rain and strong winds. Since the winds were slightly off shore, it was hard to find a location with good exposure to the wind with all the buildings. The surf was angry, though, with waves washing under the boardwalk. There little damage visible. A few benches on the boardwalk were overturned and various sized limbs covered lawns in the area.
I decided to pursue an area with good NNW exposure so I headed south on Rte 1. I remembered a place in Indian River, Delaware where I had stopped before - the Indian River Marina - which is situated on a little spit of land that separates Rehobeth Bay from Indian River Bay. The marina was being buffeted by strong NNW winds and a storm tide of about 3 feet above normal. Waves were occasionally breaking onto the parking area.
The winds were respectable here: 35-40 mph, gusts 50+. Armed with a brand-new Weather Channel rain coat, I set off to immerse myself in the storm. There was no sand to blast me this time which was a good thing. But the rain blowing at 50+ was no picnic. Being mid-way through the evening and being the only sole for probably miles around, I did not stay too long - just one hour, but an exciting hour it was. I forgot my NOAA weather radio so I was "flying blind" on this one. Since it was dark, the camera was essentially useless. My wrist watch barometer sat on my dresser too. Just me and my anemometer.
The rigging on the boats in the marina whistled and occasionally roared in the storm force gusts. The final rain bands whipped in occasionally from the Bay making the observing a little more difficult. It was chilly too with temps only in the low 50s. There was a surprising wind chill even at 50 degrees when the wind is blowing 50+ !
Wind statistics for Indian River Marina, Indian River, Delaware, October 8, 1996:
I don't like to compare and contrast storms but this was not as exciting as Edouard. The good thing was that this wasn't a 1000 mile round trip, just 300 (still long...) Perhaps if had not done the Edouard chase this one would have been more exciting. My timing on this one stunk. I'm sure if I was there mid-afternoon I could have experienced gusts near 70 mph. The Channel 4/11 AWS station at the Quality Inn in Ocean City recorded a gust to 81 mph which is not representative of surface level winds since the instrument is located some ten stories high. I don't know what the Coast Guard station recorded for its highest gust. In hind-sight I'm questioning whether I should have even done this chase but the thought of not knowing would have bothered me more.