ELLSWORTH, Maine — Hurricane Bill is headed up the East Coast and even though it is not expected to hit Maine directly, emergency personnel are on alert for potential problems from the storm.
Bill was still a Category 3 hurricane Friday afternoon with sustained winds up to 115 mph, according to National Weather Service reports.
The major effects in Maine will be felt on Sunday, according to Mark Bloomer, a NWS meteorologist in Caribou.
“By Sunday, it will be well east of Cape Cod and southeast of the Gulf of Maine,” Bloomer said Friday afternoon. “For Maine, the major impact will be from building seas.”
Waves could be as high as 15 to 20 feet along the coast on Sunday, he said, which will pose a danger to mariners, particularly in smaller vessels.
High winds and rain with localized flooding could result from the storm, even if the storm tracks east of Maine, Bloomer said. Winds could reach 35 knots (about 40 mph), and a stalled front over interior Maine could draw in tropical moisture that Hurricane Bill is pumping up from the south, resulting in heavy rains. Bloomer said he expected the heaviest rains along the Down East coast on Sunday.
Astronomically high tides combined with the high waves also could cause some coastal flooding Sunday night, he said.
“There’s concern that the high tides along with the very big seas could result in some wash-over across some roads that pass along the coast,” he said.
The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a warning about high seas and rip tides that can be created by hurricanes, and which can be dangerous for boaters and swimmers.
The Coast Guard station in Portland is issuing regular warnings and weather updates to mariners on Channel 16, the marine emergency channel.
State and county emergency agencies anticipate that the worst of the hurricane will pass to the east, but have initiated a hurricane emergency plan. Mark Belserene, director of the operations division at the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said officials are keeping a close eye on the hurricane’s track in the event it veers from its expected course.
The hurricane plan goes into effect 72 hours ahead of the storm, Belserene said, and MEMA already has identified and notified emergency staff, including the state’s emergency response team, who would be called to respond in the event the hurricane changes its track.
MEMA also has identified specific emergency equipment that might be needed quickly in the event of a hit from Bill. The American Red Cross also has moved emergency personnel into place in Maine in the event their services are needed, he said.
“One positive thing about hurricanes,” Bloomer said, “is that you usually have a good day or two in order to put a lot of things together. We try to use that to our benefit.”