Hurricane Gloria – 20 Years Ago Today

I came to Connecticut in May 1984. I thought I did a good job on the air, but being a little over-the-top was the only way I stood out from my competitors.

All that changed September 27, 1985 when Hurricane Gloria made landfall in Connecticut.

For me, it was a career changing event. It was a chance to let people know, though I might screw around when the weather was nice, I was trustworthy when weather was critical. At least that’s how I saw it.

1984 doesn’t seem so long ago, but it was eons ago in technology and forecasting technique. The possibility of this hurricane came up in a conversation five days before landfall. A friend noted an interesting system and some rudimentary computer guidance brought it vaguely up the coast.

As I remember it today, each successive day continued with the storm on a fairly consistent track.

Looking back, I realize I was a sucker. These forecasts were well beyond the capability of the available models. That they were right was dumb luck!

A few days before Gloria struck, I started sharing my concerns with my boss and he put together a plan. Again, in hindsight we were so innocent. Today, wall-to-wall coverage would begin days before the storm struck. In 1985, with the storm due midday, we planned on running Good Morning America in its entirety!

I stayed after the late news, doing cut-ins through the night. No one was watching, but I was there.

We had little morning news presence back then. I don’t even remember who it was, but a single person produced and reported in the morning.

At 7:00 AM we switched to GMA. Every half hour their meteorologist reported the national weather, including the upcoming hurricane. The graphics on GMA were wrong&#185. Every half hour I’d follow Dave Murray, asking the viewers to believe me and not him.

Before long, we were on-the-air non-stop. The station really did an amazing job. I still remember some live shots, especially David Henry’s from Bridgeport, as if they happened yesterday.

Gloria had been a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, but was a shadow of her former self when she hit Long Island and then Connecticut. Officially, Gloria hit Connecticut with 90 mph sustained winds. Today, I doubt even that number. Whatever it was, it was frightening. Half the state lost power.

My friend Diane Smith lost a beautiful sailboat. Other friends and co-workers would lose trees and power – in some cases for a week or more.

I watched the storm on the Weather Service’s ancient radar. As it approached Connecticut, the eye opened up. We had one eyewall pass overhead and that was it. The southern half of this north moving storm no longer existed.

By nightfall Gloria was gone and Connecticut was picking up the pieces.

A day or two later in the New Haven Register, Carolyn Wyman didn’t talk about my coverage, she wrote about my disheveled hair, wondering if it was an affectation. I was crushed. I wonder if Carolyn (who seems like a nice person) knows I still remember? I wonder if she still feels that way?

On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know.

Hurricane Gloria was where I first realized, no matter how important it made my job, I didn’t want really bad weather to come here. Some forecasters do. Some meteorologists salivate over tornadoes and hurricanes. I, on the other hand, had my fill on that one day.

Years later, Governor (now prisoner) John Rowland told me he was waiting for houses to start blowing through the streets of Waterbury. To some, the storm was a disappointment. To others, especially along the Connecticut shoreline, it was a few hours of terror.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the old video and trying to remember what it was like watching it the first time. I am petrified that among the old clips will be a little cut of me, 20 years younger, looking like I was 15.

&#185 – As far as I could tell, a graphic artist preparing the maps traced the correct forecast track. Unfortunately, the line she/he drew wasn’t centered on the pen, but was actually to the right of it. That was common back then.

7 thoughts on “Hurricane Gloria – 20 Years Ago Today”

  1. “I came to Connecticut in May 2004. I thought I did a good job on the air, but being a little over-the-top was the only way I stood out from my competitors.

    All that changed September 27, 1985 when Hurricane Gloria made landfall in Connecticut.”

    So your a meteorologist AND a time traveler?

    As was pointed out, my original entry said 2004 instead of 1984. OK – so shoot me. It is now fixed. – GF

  2. haha.


    Something I always remember, every time a storm forms out off the coast of africa, is something you said on the air 20 years ago.

    You tapped the screen with 2 fingers over the image of a very small forming storm WAAAYY far away from here and said something along the lines of “I’m watching this one, I have a feeling it’s coming our way”

    I’m sure I got the line all wrong of what you said, but fact being, I saw you predict gloria long before it came even near us, and I think about that every time I see a new storm forming out in that same general area.

    Dumb luck – truly. I wasn’t smart enough to understand I couldn’t do that. – GF

  3. I think the morning guy was Gary Jenkins. Simple reading of the headlines from a small desk.

    You were awesome during Gloria. In fact, WTNH became our family news station after that event- and remains so to this day.

    I also remember what the previous poster said about you following that system from Africa- and its in your WTNH archives from earlier that month.

  4. I remember Gloria. I was living on a sailboat in New York City when that storm hit. I tried to decide what to do, and decided the best thing was to take the boat up north. I rode the storm out in a hurricane hole off of Croton-Hudson.

    The boat and I survived quite nicely. However, after this seasons storms, I wonder if I had made the wisest choice.

  5. I remember Gloria well – It was my 1st hurricane & I was a sophmore at Brandeis having just transferred from UC Irvine. We went out into it and played football in the wind (under the powerlines). Wow – I was pretty reckless and only 17!

    I currently have Fox disease, only backwards. There is no reason in the world why I should be sending you email at 4:20 a.m. Can’t wait for Vegas!

  6. Geoff,Out of 1,564 weather reports you did for WTNH you were only correct 12% of the time,Putting you second to Hesh Francis in Houston out OF THE WHOLE COUNTRY

  7. I remember hurricane gloria striking on my seventh birthday. It wasn’t a good day, it rained a lot, and the power went out. The only good thing was we have plenty of cupcakes. My mother made them for school but school was canceled. So we ate them. Also my birthday supper, my father cooked over the fireplace, he made canned spaghetti, over the fireplace, we ate that night. I rememeber the day after I couldn’t go outside and play because the brook was still too high. I was really lucky that day, at the time I lived by a brook, and the brook was high, but it didn’t flood the house nor get water in the cellar. We didn’t have to leave.

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