October 30

This Day in History

Disaster

Oct 30, 1991:

Perfect storm hits North Atlantic

On this day in 1991, the so-called "perfect storm" hits the North Atlantic producing remarkably large waves along the New England and Canadian coasts. Over the next several days, the storm spread its fury over the ocean off the coast of Canada. The fishing boat Andrea Gail and its six-member crew were lost in the storm. The disaster spawned the best-selling book The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger and a blockbuster Hollywood movie of the same name.

On October 27, Hurricane Grace formed near Bermuda and moved north toward the coast of the southeastern United States. Two days later, Grace continued to move north, where it encountered a massive low pressure system moving south from Canada. The clash of systems over the Atlantic Ocean caused 40-to-80-foot waves on October 30—unconfirmed reports put the waves at more than 100 feet in some locations. This massive surf caused extensive coastal flooding, particularly in Massachusetts; damage was also sustained as far south as Jamaica and as far north as Newfoundland.

The storm continued to churn in the Atlantic on October 31; it was nicknamed the "Halloween storm." It came ashore on November 2 along the Nova Scotia coast, then, as it moved northeast over the Gulf Stream waters, it made a highly unusual transition into a hurricane. The National Hurricane Center made the decision not to name the storm for fear it would alarm and confuse local residents. It was only the eighth hurricane not given a name since the naming of hurricanes began in 1950.

Meanwhile, as the storm developed, the crew of the 70-foot fishing boat Andrea Gail was fishing for swordfish in the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic. The Andrea Gail was last heard from on October 28. When the boat did not return to port on November 1 as scheduled, rescue teams were sent out.

The week-long search for the Andrea Gail and a possible cause of its demise were documented in Junger’s book, which became a national bestseller. Neither the Andrea Gail nor its crew—David Sullivan and Robert Shatford of Gloucester, Mass.; William Tyne, Dale Murphy and Michael Moran of Bradenton Beach, Fla.; and Alfred Pierre of New York City—was ever found.

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