September 29, 2008

Kyle Gives Maine a Glancing Blow on Way to Canada

By David Sharp Associated Press

MACHIAS, Maine -- Fishermen moved boats to shelter from a rare burst of tropical weather along Maine's rugged eastern coast Sunday as a weakening Hurricane Kyle spun past on its way to Canada, delivering a glancing blow equivalent to a classic nor'easter that made locals yawn.

As darkness fell, the storm produced winds hard enough to jiggle road signs and rip early-autumn leaves from trees while lashing the Maine coast with a third straight day of heavy rain. It caused flooding that closed roads as it sped up the Bay of Fundy, which separates Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick from Nova Scotia.

Maine emergency responders had braced for wind gusts as high as 60 mph and waves up to 20 feet, but as the storm pushed toward the Canadian Maritime Provinces, it became clear that the state was escaping a direct hit.

"This was a run-of-the-mill storm. It had the potential to be a real problem, and it all sort of went away. That shift to the east did wonders for Maine," said Michael Hinerman, director of the Washington County Emergency Management Agency, which was closing up shop Sunday night.

A hurricane watch for Maine was discontinued, but a tropical storm warning remained in effect from Stonington, on the central Maine coast at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, to Eastport on the Canadian border, the National Hurricane Center said. The Canadian Hurricane Centre issued a hurricane warning for parts of southwestern Nova Scotia, with tropical storm warnings for parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Officials had once expected the eye to hit at the Maine-New Brunswick border, but with the storm fading to the east, the state planned to close its emergency operations center in Augusta on Sunday night unless unexpected problems arose. There were no evacuations in Maine.

Still, as much as 7 inches of rain had fallen in three days along some coastal areas. Flood watches were in effect for the southern two-thirds of New Hampshire and southern Maine through Sunday evening.

Residents of the area are accustomed to rough weather, but it most often comes in the winter when nor'easters howl along the coast. Maine hasn't had anything like a hurricane since Bob was downgraded as it moved into the state in 1991 after causing problems in southern New England.

While residents took precautions, many weren't impressed by Kyle.

"It probably won't be much different than a nor'easter except we don't have to deal with the snow," said Jesse Davis of Marshfield, who planned to ride out the wind and rain at home with his wife and 2-month-old daughter. He gassed up his vehicles and generator, took in his deck furniture and filled up water jugs, but said that's what he does for any big storm.

Many lobstermen moved their boats to sheltered coves, said Dwight Carver, a lobsterman on Beals Island. Some also moved lobster traps from shallow water.

"I'm sure we'll have a lot of snarls, a lot of mess, to take care of when it's done," Carver said. "It'll take us a few days to straighten things out."

In Lubec, the easternmost town in the U.S., town workers pulled up docks and fishermen moved boats across the harbor into Campobello Island, New Brunswick, which has coves and wharves that offer shelter.

At 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, Kyle was centered near the western tip of Nova Scotia, about 80 miles southeast of the coastal border of Maine and New Brunswick, the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving north at nearly 30 mph and was weakening. Kyle's maximum sustained winds were nearly 75 mph, or just barely hurricane strength.

Emergency Measures officials in New Brunswick were concerned that people living inland were not taking the storm warnings seriously enough.

"We're talking to people on the street and they're shrugging this off," said spokesman Ernie MacGillvray.

He noted that the storm system was hundreds of miles wide. "They need to understand there's going to be a whole bunch of impact and it could be a few days before phones and power is restored," MacGillvray said.

The deadliest storm to hit the Northeast was in 1938 when a hurricane killed 700 people and destroyed 63,000 homes on New York's Long Island and throughout New England. Other hurricanes that have hit Maine were Carol and Edna in 1954, Donna in 1960 and Gloria in 1985.

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