June 24, 2018
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Earl’s impact on coastal businesses mixed

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Businesses in coastal Maine were pretty much back to normal after feeling a minor jolt from Tropical Storm Earl earlier this Labor Day weekend.

The weather cooperated after Earl grazed the coast with heavy rains, but none of the damaging winds that officials feared could cause damage, and sunny skies afterward allowed tourists and natives alike to enjoy the unofficial last weekend of summer.

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Earl’s impact was a “mixed bag,” according to tourism industry, according to Pat Eltman, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. Eltman said Sunday that she had not seen any official figures, but said the storm seems to have had mixed effects in the state.

“We’ve had some people who canceled their trips,” Eltman said in a telephone interview. “But we’ve also had some people come into the state to view the surf.”

The weather kept cruise ships in Portland Harbor for an extra day or two, Eltman said, which should have been a boost to the local economy. But travel conditions also forced two cruise ships to cancel planned visits to Bar Harbor, which is certain to affect local businesses.

On Sunday, two cruise ships were back in the harbor and the downtown was busy, according to several reports.

“We may have lost a day” because of the storm, Eltman said, but early reports for the rest of the weekend seemed very positive. Anecdotal reports from around the state indicated that people were still coming into the state for the weekend, she said.

In Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park closed its three campgrounds Friday night, displacing 500 or more campers. Local reports indicated that while some of those campers found rooms at motels in the area, others left the island and didn’t come back. That likely had an impact on local businesses.

Hotels in Bar Harbor seemed to fare pretty well, and bookings stayed strong in the face of the hurricane.

“We sort of knew nothing much was going to happen,” said Josh Raymond, a desk supervisor at the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel. “A few people called with concerns, but we just battened down the hatches to some degree.”

There were few cancellations because of the storm, he said. That also was the case at the Bar Harbor Regency Hotel.

“We had a few people call asking if we ever evacuated the island,” said Tom Swan, one of the hotel managers. “But we didn’t have many cancellations because of the storm.”

All in all, he said, it has been a “pretty good” weekend.

Two festivals in the region felt the impact of the storm. In Camden, organizers of the Camden Windjammer Festival postponed Friday’s activities, but once the storm had passed, a shortened festival drew crowds to the waterfront area Saturday and Sunday.

In Blue Hill, the rain held off for most of the evening Friday and the fair closed just a half-hour early that night. On Saturday, rains delayed the start of the fair by several hours and may have kept fair-goers away during the day.

“Even though it had stopped raining here, it was still raining Down East,” fair president Rob Eaton said Sunday. “I think they assumed that because it was raining there, it was still raining here. So we were off a little yesterday.”

Wet conditions forced fair officials to cancel the harness racing Saturday, and the local fire department pumped several hundred thousand gallons of water off the flooded infield, Eaton said. Other than that, there was little impact.

Fair-goers were making up for lost time Sunday. Traffic was backed up in both directions to the fair entrance, at times stretching back more than 1½ miles along Ellsworth Road.

“Today is shaping up to be a good day,” Eaton said. “It’s perfect fair weather.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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