Storm effort called ‘great training exercise’

Posted Sept. 29, 2008, at 9:01 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:18 a.m.

MACHAIS, Maine — Monday dawned with a brilliant sun, clear teal-blue skies and fall leaves exploding into blinding reds, yellows and golds. The overnight rain had scrubbed the air clean, and damage reports from Tropical Storm Kyle were minimal in Down East Maine.

“Hurricane? What hurricane?” Annie Calder asked as she bought her morning coffee in Machias, referring to Hurricane Kyle before it was downgraded to a tropical storm. “The rainstorm that struck Down East two weeks ago was far more intense than Kyle. Last night was just like a spring storm.”

People across the Canadian border in New Brunswick reflected a similar sentiment, although residents on the eastern side of the fast-moving storm saw some damage. Kyle weakened after it made landfall near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, but the area east of it around Shelburne, Nova Scotia, “bore the brunt of the storm,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s Web site on Monday.

There were no injuries, but the storm did knock down trees and power lines in that province.

“Kyle hit the Maritimes almost to the day of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Juan, which ripped through Nova Scotia in 2003 causing about $150 million in damage, leaving eight dead and thousands without power,” the CBC said.

At a wharf in Cutler on Monday, Linda VanTatenhove was bailing out her motorboat. She and her husband, Rodger, both of Grant, Mich., have been spending the summer as caretakers at Little River Lighthouse, which stands sentinel a short distance from Cutler Harbor on Little River Island.

“I bailed out more water than this two weeks ago,” Linda VanTatenhove said. “We were certainly lucky that it slid past us. Cutler Harbor, which is normally exceptionally calm, was alive last night. We came down to the dock and saw all the boats bobbing and opted to stay in Cutler last night. It ended up not being bad at all.”

Washington County Emergency Management Director Michael Hinerman agreed.

“As it turned out, it was a great training exercise,” Hinerman said. “We shut down the emergency command center by 9:30 p.m. [Sunday].”

Hinerman said he spent Monday morning fielding more calls from reporters than calls reporting damage. “Nothing, no reports,” he said. “We haven’t heard of any storm damage yet.”

Bay Ferries changed the schedule for the Cat on Sunday, canceling trips between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and between Digby, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick, according to George Driscoll, vice president of marketing and sales. He said the Portland ship was moved to Bar Harbor to ride out the storm.

The Department of Marine Resources banned shellfish harvesting along the entire Maine coast effective Saturday evening because of concerns about bacterial runoff from the heavy rains. The ban covers, clams, quahogs, mussels and oysters from New Hampshire to Canada.

Betsy Fitzgerald, Machias town manager, said the town had some road erosion, but it was in the same areas affected by a heavy rainstorm two weeks ago. The county had about $260,000 in damage during that storm and a few areas opened up or washed away. “It was pretty minor road damage,” she said of the weekend storm.

Hinerman said a critique of the county’s emergency preparedness was held Monday through a conference call. “I’m sending out a letter today, an ‘atta boy,’ thanking all the other agencies for being ready to cooperate and communicate.”

He said that Washington County communities are very self-sufficient and pretty much took care of themselves regarding storm preparations. “We don’t really tell them what to do. We ask them what is going on and we take it from there,” he said.

Farther up the coast, things were about the same.

In Calais, City Manager Diane Barnes said there were no reports of washed-out roads. Barnes said the city’s wastewater treatment plant also was able to handle the additional flow of water.

Lubec did well except for a few washed-out roads there, Town Administrator Maureen Glidden said Monday. “The one at Crows Neck was quite serious,” she said. “We have the road half-opened right now.” There were some downed trees, but other than that there were no injuries to property or people.

Eastport City Manager George “Bud” Finch said there were a few wet basements because of the rain.

In Augusta, the governor had high praise for everyone.

“Federal, local, county and state officials, along with our nonprofit and private-sector partners, are to be commended for the work that went into the preparation for Hurricane Kyle,” said Gov. John Baldacci on Monday in an e-mailed statement. “We are thankful that the storm did not have the devastating impact that could have occurred with a more direct hit. The collaborative efforts that went into the preparation and response provide us with valuable experience for future potential weather events and other emergencies.”

Sunday’s storm was “inconsequential” was how one New Brunswick official described it after it petered out. Although there was steady rainfall at times throughout Maine and the Maritimes, even the rain didn’t prove all that problematic.

“We had some rain. The wind was like a breeze. It absolutely totally missed us,” Cpl. Bob MacKnight of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said from his office in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, on Monday. “There might have been a couple of power lines down, but otherwise it was nothing.”

Tim Henderson, chief administrative officer for the town of St. Andrews, said the storm substantially bypassed his seaside community.

“We did have some light wind and some large branches down, but other than that nothing,” he said. The town’s emergency operation command center was on standby, but was not mobilized.

Henderson noted, however, that the storm did one thing — it forced people to prepare for it. “And we will be prepared in the future,” he added.

St. Stephen officials said the storm didn’t cause any problems there. “When I came to work this morning there were hardly any leaves down,” the official said.

That was the story Monday up and down the Maine coast — it was a nonevent, a storm that shifted away and spared Washington County, a storm that really wasn’t much of a storm at all.

BDN writer Bill Trotter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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