ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — High surf along the Maine coast being generated by a hurricane far offshore prompted park officials Thursday to take precautions at oceanfront sites popular with visitors, according to a park ranger.
The National Weather Service issued a high surf advisory Thursday morning for the entire Maine and New Hampshire coastline and numerous parts of the coast down through Long Island in New York. Small craft advisories also were issued for the eastern part of Maine and for sections of the coast extending south to Delaware and Maryland.
The rough seas were churned up by Hurricane Cristobal, a relatively weak Category 1 storm hundreds of miles off the mid-Atlantic shoreline that was blowing toward Iceland.
The high surf advisory for Maine was expected to remain in effect until 8 a.m. Friday.
Heavy surf along the rugged Maine coast, especially in Acadia National Park, is known to draw visitors who enjoy seeing the large waves crash and spray along the rocks. For that reason, park rangers were taking precautions to alert visitors to the potential dangers of getting too close to the water.
Visitors to the park have been swept into the ocean before, both when seas were rough and under normal ocean conditions.
In 2009, a large wave churned up by Hurricane Bill swept several visitors into the sea near Thunder Hole, and carried three of them out toward open water. One of the three, a young girl from New York City, drowned before she could be rescued by responding Coast Guard personnel.
In 1999, a married couple from Charleston was pulled into the sea and drowned by a large wave at Schoodic Point.
Ranger Richard Rechholtz said Thursday that park staff had erected “high surf” warning signs at the park’s entrance fee station on Ocean Drive and at Seawall, on the western side of Mount Desert Island, where Route 102A skirts along the top of a cobblestone beach. He said similar signs were posted at Sand Beach, where lifeguards were keeping an eye out for riptides that could pull swimmers out to sea.
“The lifeguards will close the water if need be,” Rechholtz said later Thursday morning, adding that they could also close the beach to visitors if the surf became heavy enough. “They’re being very vigilant at the beach. We’re making sure people are aware of the high surf advisory.”
Rechholtz said rangers also planned to lock the gate at Thunder Hole to discourage people from going out on the rocks and were expected to take similar precautions at Schoodic Point, on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay.
John Bott, spokesman for Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said Thursday that staff at state parks were monitoring the weather and making visitors aware of the conditions. No oceanfront state parks were closed, he said, but staff at those parks with beaches that are popular with swimmers such as Popham Beach, Reid State Park and Roque Bluffs were urging visitors to be careful when going in the water.
“People are being told when they come in to exercise caution,” Bott said.