LUBEC, Maine — Much like Hurricane Kyle two years ago, Hurricane Earl failed to impress Down East residents as the storm’s remnants passed to the east Saturday, raking the region with rain and churning up surf but failing to generate gusts strong enough to cause damage.
The storm produced gusts up to 45 mph in eastern Maine, and the National Weather Service dropped its tropical storm warning for Washington and Hancock counties at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Instead of strong winds, the storm brought 2 to 5 inches of rain to Washington County, and heavy bands of rain hit other areas, said meteorologist Lee Foster in Caribou.
The biggest concerns were strong surf and rip currents created by 18-foot seas, Foster said. People near the coast were warned to keep a safe distance from the pounding waves.
At Acadia National Park, officials briefly closed the road that provided access to rocks where a 7-year-old girl was swept to her death by a 20-foot wave caused by Hurricane Bill last year.
Off the coast of New Hampshire, the storm interfered with the search for a boater who went missing before the storm’s arrival. The Coast Guard said Saturday evening that an air and sea search failed to locate Robert Schultze of Shapleigh, whose abandoned boat was discovered near Kitts Rocks on Friday. The search was suspended pending further developments.
As Earl approached, recreational boaters moved hundreds of vessels onto dry ground or to safer locations. Lobster fishermen moved their traps to deeper water or pulled them from the water altogether. Many islanders fled to the mainland because of the dismal weekend weather forecast.
But reminiscent of Kyle, Hurricane Earl lost steam and veered to the east. It was downgraded Friday night to a tropical storm before making landfall around 11 a.m. Saturday in eastern Nova Scotia.
While tropical storm warnings had been posted for Washington and Hancock counties, the storm didn’t gain respect from rugged residents accustomed to fierce winter storms with stronger gusts.
“The wind always blows around here,” Mark Jones said Saturday morning as he cooked ham and sausage for the monthly pancake breakfast at the Masonic lodge in Lubec.
Mark Sprague of East Machias said he got the last laugh in a friendly disagreement with his brother, who monitored the storm on the Internet and warned that it packed a powerful wallop.
“I said, ‘Walk over to the window and drop that computer out the window,”’ Sprague said as he watched the rain falling outside the window of Peanut’s Coffee Shop. “This ain’t nothing.”
Acadia park officials said Saturday that the campgrounds were opened by midmorning Saturday and that all of the park on Mount Desert Island was functioning.
The only restrictions Saturday were at the Schoodic section of the park in eastern Hancock County, where the waves had picked up, a park spokesperson said. Rangers moved visitors to the upper parking lot to keep them off the rocks near the shore.
With the rains ended and the park open, people started to show up late Saturday morning, they said.
Inland in Washington County, residents reported heavy rain but little wind early Saturday morning.
The storm greeted Eastport with more of a growl than a roar when it arrived at about 6 a.m. Saturday.
The Coast Guard station at Eastport reported winds between 22 and 26 mph, strong enough to blow window screens from a motel and the water right out of the downtown fountain.
Despite the weather, Dennis Berry of Kenduskeag calmly drove his pickup truck to the breakwater at daybreak, pulled out a fishing rod and began to cast.
When asked what he was doing out in a tropical storm, Berry simply said, “I’m trying to catch mackerel.”
Berry said he arrived for a four-day stay in a cabin at Eastport and wasn’t going to let the storm dampen his trip. “I come every year,” he said. “I love it here. It is so unspoiled.”
In Knox County, some areas received about 3 inches of rain, Ray Sisk, director of the Knox County Emergency Management Agency, said Saturday morning, but winds there blew at a moderate 15 knots. A few low-lying areas had minor flooding.
“Everything is so dry here that the ground has absorbed everything really well,” Sisk said.
In Maine’s easternmost region, the candy-striped West Quoddy Head lighthouse stood sentry in gray haze as rain blanketed the area Saturday morning.
Bruce and Amy Hodgdon drove to Lubec on Saturday morning hoping to see dramatic surf pounding the rocks near the lighthouse. Once there, they didn’t bother to get out of their van.
“Pretty mild,” Bruce Hodgdon said.
“Business as usual,” Amy Hodgdon added.
The sheets of rain didn’t keep dozens of residents from attending Lubec’s pancake breakfast. But it did prevent buccaneers from Eastport from coming to Lubec in full pirate garb to hoist the Jolly Roger in celebration of Eastport’s coming pirate festival.
Cobscook Bay’s choppy waters were deemed too rough, so the pirate invasion was delayed until Sunday. By then, sunny skies and mild temperatures were expected.
In Bangor, barriers were put up at about 10 a.m. Saturday to divert traffic on Perry Road, near the Route 202 overpass, after a car got stuck because of flooding there.
“It’s very deceiving,” Bangor police Officer Al Woolley said from the rain-soaked scene. “It’s got to be above my knees.”