AUGUSTA, Maine — The National Weather Service is projecting that Hurricane Earl will be downgraded to a tropical storm about the time it makes landfall in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
In eastern Maine, where two counties are under a tropical storm warning, winds are expected to hit 40 to 55 mph, akin to nor’easters that hit the region.
Meteorologist Mark Bloomer in Caribou says the bigger concern is the surf that’s expected to hit 12 to 15 feet by mid-day Saturday, after the storm passes by. Bloomer says people near the coast will need to keep a safe distance from the surf to avoid the pounding waves.
Gov. John Baldacci met with federal, state and county emergency response officials in Augusta on Thursday to assess the storm’s damage potential. In a prepared statement, he said Earl’s effects may range from high waves and moderately high winds and rain to a potentially heavier impact statewide if it moves farther west.
“The state is coordinating information and resource needs to protect people in Maine,” Baldacci said in the statement. “We’ve been through storms before, and we have been preparing for many days with our public and private partners. We have emergency personnel in Augusta and on the ground across the state ready for this storm no matter what track it takes.”
As of now, Washington and Hancock counties are under a tropical storm warning. The rest of the Maine coast is under a tropical storm watch.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have declared states of emergency.
“We’re asking everyone: Don’t panic,” said Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. “We have prepared well, we are coordinated well, and I’m confident that we’ve done everything that we can.”
On Friday morning, residents seemed to be following Patrick’s advice. Traffic was light on both bridges to and from Cape Cod, where the air was still and heavy rains started in the late morning.
Ellen McDonough of Boston and a friend were waiting in Barnstable on Friday for what was expected to be one of the last ferries to Nantucket before service was stopped. The two had planned a Labor Day weekend getaway to the island and didn’t see Earl as a good reason to cancel.
“It’s not a 3-foot snowstorm. I think us New Englanders are tough,” McDonough said. “We’ve had this weekend planned, and no hurricane is going to stop us.”
Scott Thomas, general manager of the Nantucket Inn, the largest hotel on the island, said about 20 guests canceled their reservations for Friday night, but the rooms were refilled by utility workers, Red Cross workers and reporters.
Thomas Kinton Jr., executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan International Airport in Boston, said he didn’t expect major commercial airlines to cancel flights because of Earl. Cape Air, which serves Cape Cod, will be ending its flights at midday Friday, he said.
“The potential impacts to (Logan) airport are lessening as the hurricane gets closer,” Kinton said.
Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri signed a declaration of disaster emergency Thursday, giving emergency workers access to state and federal resources to deal with problems that may be caused by the hurricane. Block Island, a popular Rhode Island tourist destination, was expected to see hurricane-force gusts.
In Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell pressed President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency for her state.
“I have determined that this event is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments as well as voluntary organizations,” Rell said in a letter to Obama.
In New Hampshire, the storm appeared to be headed east of the state, but officials were encouraging homeowners who live near the coast to have extra batteries and water. Officials in Rye said they would close all the town’s beaches because of possible dangerous ocean currents.
Hundreds were leaving their island summer homes in Maine on Thursday before the traditional end of the season on Labor Day because of the threat of a weekend washout, said Philip Conkling, president of the Island Institute.
At Acadia National Park, which is under a tropical storm warning, officials closed most of a road where thousands of visitors gathered last year to watch the swells from Hurricane Bill, and a 20-foot wave swept a 7-year-old girl to her death.