ELLSWORTH, Maine — A much-weakened Earl arrived in Maine Friday night, downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm but still lashing the state with heavy rain. Much of Maine saw over night what was more typical of the nor’easters residents have been dealing with for generations — except this one disrupted the unofficial last weekend of summer.
As 7 am Saturday, the National Weather Service still had a tropical storm warning in effect for Maine from eastern Penobscot Bay to Eastport. But by then Earl had long since dropped from a Category 4 with 145 mph winds to winds of 25 to 30 mph, and its remnants had taken aim at Nova Scotia.
On Friday, preparations for the storm had continued in eastern Maine, with state officials and other emergency response coordinators in Hancock and Washington counties making sure they were ready for whatever weather Earl might bring.
The storm had swirled up the Eastern Seaboard after sideswiping North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where it caused flooding but no injuries and little damage. The storm passed wide of New York City, Long Island and the rest of the mid-Atlantic region, but brought rain and high winds as it passed just off Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard late Friday night.
Despite the storm’s decreased power, state, federal, county and municipal officials in Maine weren’t taking chances. Acadia National Park, where a 7-year-old girl died last year after she and others were swept into the ocean by a wave generated by Hurricane Bill, closed its three campgrounds at 5 p.m. Friday, including on Isle Au Haut. The park also planned to close certain roads later Friday evening.
Because of last year’s fatality, many officials stressed Friday that people should stay away from high surf.
Acadia had more than 500 tent and recreational vehicle camping reservations for Friday night, prompting the Pine Tree Chapter of the Red Cross to open the Bangor Civic Center as a shelter for those campers who were being displaced and could not find another place to stay. Park officials made an effort to contact as many of those who held reservations as possible before they arrived.
Acadia’s Blackwoods Campground was nearly deserted around 4:30 p.m. Friday, save for a handful of campers who still were getting their things together to leave.
The Freedman family of Wayland, Mass., had arrived at the campground on Thursday, a trip Nancy Freed-man said she and her husband, David, had been wanting to take for decades. She said that on Thursday they pitched a tent for the first time in 30 years, only to have to take it down again after going on a deep-sea fishing trip Friday morning.
“We’ve never been here before,” Nancy Freedman said as she worked to pack their last few belongings back into their minivan. “It’s been an adventure.”
She said they had lucked out in finding alternate lodging. After they found out they would have to evacuate the campground, they used a cell phone to make calls from the fishing boat and managed to find a room for the night in the Bar Harbor village of Hulls Cove.
David Freedman said he, his wife and their teenage son Andy planned to return to the campground on Sat-urday and to stay for another two nights before returning home on Monday.
“You can’t always predict Mother Nature,” he said.
Maximillian Franz of Baltimore, Md., was one of the final campers to leave Blackwoods on Friday after-noon. He said he and his cousin Nicholas Franz also had been out fishing earlier in the day and had planned to cook the fish over their campfire Friday night.
As he was pulling out of the campground, Franz said they weren’t sure where they would stay Friday night. He said they still planned to return home on Monday.
“We’re going to try to get a place in Bar Harbor,” Franz said.
As of 7:30 p.m. Friday, no campers had turned up at the Bangor Civic Center, where Red Cross staff and volunteers had set up a dozen cots and several tables and chairs and had easy access to more if needed.
Gretchen O’Grady, the chapter’s emergency services director and health nurse, said Friday that the dis-placed campers likely found other accommodations closer to the coast, hunkered down in WalMart parking lots, canceled their reservations or made plans to arrive on Saturday.
Whether or not anyone showed up, O’Grady said, the process of planning, setting up and taking down an emergency shelter is good experience for staff and volunteers.
Acadia National Park officials also expected to close Ocean Drive from the fee entrance station to Wildwood Stables, the southern end of Schooner Head Road, and all park roads on the Schoodic Peninsula by 9 p.m.
The Islesford museum will be closed Saturday.
All closures are expected to remain in place until park officials determine that weather conditions are safe.
While some airlines did not alter their schedules, US Airways suspended flights between 1 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the four airports it serves in Maine, including Bangor International Airport and Han-cock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton.
Cape Air, which offers commercial flights out of Owls Head, suspended all flights from Boston northbound at 6 p.m. Friday and canceled the Rockland-to-Boston flight scheduled for Saturday, according to the company’s website.
Passengers or others with questions about incoming or outgoing flights should “contact [their] airline or travel agent” to ensure everything is on schedule, Tony Caruso, assistant BIA director, said Friday afternoon.
In Eastport, the local Market Day, which normally is held 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, has been canceled. But some of the same vendors will be selling fresh produce and goat cheese from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Peavey Library in Eastport as part of the Salmon Festival. Organizers are going ahead with the festival, though some events have been moved indoors to the Eastport Arts Center. For information, go to www.eastportsalmonfestival.com.
The Eastport Pirate Invasion of Lubec, which had been scheduled for Saturday, now will happen Sunday. The invasion is intended to promote the Eastport Pirate Festival that happens the next weekend, Sept. 10-12. For information, visit www.eastportpiratefestival.com
In Rockland, city officials closed access to the breakwater Friday afternoon, according to a press release from the Rockland Police Department.
The Samoset Road will be closed to all nonresident vehicular traffic until 2 p.m. Saturday. Marie H. Reed Breakwater Park and public access to the Rockland breakwater also will be closed from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon, the release stated.
Police said other waterfront parks, including Harbor Park, likely will remain open but may be closed if the storm worsens.
Officials also are encouraging boat owners to secure or remove their boats from the water, and are urging the public to monitor storm developments through media sources including newspaper websites, television and radio.
Meanwhile, Camden officials released a rearranged schedule for the popular Camden Windjammer Festival.
Although the celebration had been due to start Friday afternoon, organizers decided to postpone its beginning until 4 p.m. Saturday, according to a press release from the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce.
Festivities will begin with abbreviated opening ceremonies at 4 p.m. Saturday. With Earl expected to leave the Gulf of Maine and the skies to brighten, the festival will begin with outdoor and indoor events Saturday evening and continue through Sunday night, according to the statement.
Some of the tall ships invited to ceremoniously sail into Camden’s Inner Harbor on Friday afternoon likely will make the trip at 4 p.m. Saturday instead, the release stated.
Camden harbor master Steve Pixley said that while the rain is forecast to end by Saturday morning, winds will remain high until later that day, according to the press release.
For information about the festival, visit www.camdenwindjammerfestival.com.
Mike Hinerman, emergency management director for Washington County, said Friday he expects to be on the job as the storm approaches and that emergency plans are in place in case the storm veers more to the west than expected. But he said those plans, such as opening emergency shelters, won’t be activated until emergency response officials see how the storm is affecting local weather conditions.
“Until then everything is on alert and ready,” Hinerman said. “Right now, it looks like it will be a typical storm.”
Hinerman said that because high tides are not exceptionally high right now, he doesn’t expect any flooding problems along low coastal waterways. Even if waters rise 2 or 3 feet with Earl’s storm surge, he said, he expects causeways such as those in Eastport or Machias to stay clear of coastal flooding.
Officials with Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and the town of Bar Harbor also released statements Friday about preparations for Hurricane Earl. Bangor Hydro indicated it plans to have extra staff on duty in Hancock and Washington counties to respond to power outages. In Bar Harbor, town officials have removed town boats and floats from the water and expect to have to remove downed tree limbs and fallen trees from roadways. Bar Harbor officials also plan to close access to the downtown municipal pier and to the shore path by the Bar Harbor Inn.
Information is available at www.bangorhydro.com
Boat owners and fishermen also were exercising caution Friday. Lobstermen between Penobscot Bay and Canada spent several days moving their traps either into deeper water, which is not as badly affected by storms, or onto dry land in advance of Earl. Many boat owners up and down the coast had scrambled over the previous few days to find someone who could haul their boats out before the storm.
On Mount Desert Island, every mooring and marina slip in Northeast Harbor was occupied Friday after-noon by a boat. Northeast Harbor is considered one of the more protected harbors in the MDI area, and many boat owners from surrounding harbors had brought their boats to Northeast Harbor for safekeeping. But in Seal Harbor and Bar Harbor, neither of which provide good shelter from heavy seas, nearly all the moorings sat empty as the skies darkened Friday.
Staff with Maine State Ferry Service said that as of midday Friday no changes to the ferry service’s sched-uled runs to Islesboro, Swan’s Island, North Haven or Vinalhaven were expected.
In the southern part of the state, Coast Guard crews were searching for a possible missing boater near Portsmouth, N.H., as Hurricane Earl moved closer to the New England coast.
An abandoned motor boat was found anchored near Kitts Rocks in Portsmouth Harbor at 2 p.m. Friday. No one was on the boat, but boat keys, wet suits and a license were found.
The suspected missing person is 63-year-old Robert Schultze of Shapleigh.
A Coast Guard patrol boat from Portland was on its way to help with the search.
A helicopter crew from Cape Cod searched the area briefly but had to return to base because of low visibility and stormy conditions.