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    Saturday, September 4, 2010

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    Weakened Earl spins into Canada, leaving minimal damage in wake

    Tropical Storm Earl made landfall near Western Head, Nova Scotia, on Saturday after passing well east of Nantucket Island and causing minimal damage in New England, forecasters said.

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm came ashore about 10 a.m. ET, and its maximum sustained winds are near 58 mph.

    A hurricane watch was in effect for Nova Scotia from Port Lhebert to Point Tupper. A tropical storm warning was in effect for Nova Scotia's coast, Prince Edward Island and parts of New Brunswick.

    The center of the storm passed 105 miles southeast of Nantucket Island, Mass., overnight. It had weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, said Jack Beven, senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center.

    The storm was moving north at 30 mph with top winds of 70 mph and was expected to fizzle out over the gulf of the Saint Lawrence River in Canada. In Nantucket, the emergency operations center was disbanded at 1 a.m., according to a assistant town manager Gregg Tivnan.

    "We're pretty thankful that we didn't have a storm impact," said Mary Parker, owner of Seven Seas Street Inn in Nantucket. "We expected branches down, but we didn't have any damage to our property."

    Guests couldn't get to the island for a day because ferries weren't running, Parker said. And every shop on Main Street was boarded. Now the boats are running again and Parker expects a full house for Labor Day weekend.

    Earl was downgraded to a tropical storm late Friday as it passed through New England waters. Cape Cod and the islands saw heavy rains but no notable damage.

    The once powerful storm was about 40 miles south of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia.

    Massachusetts felt "very minimal impact due to the storm," said Peter Judge, spokesman for Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. There were about 1,800 power outages and those were down to a few hundred by early Saturday, Judge said.

    Flooding affect some coastal roads but not homes, and Gov. Deval Patrick lifted the state of emergency. Local emergency managers told their state counterparts: "Don't bother sending assessment teams this morning," he said. The state emergency operations center was disbanded at 7 a.m.

    PHOTO GALLERY: Track Earl's impactYOUR STORIES: Ever experienced a Category 3-5 storm?

    Earl had caused flooding but no injuries and little damage on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

    Earl roared past North Carolina before daybreak Friday on its way up the East Coast, flooding parts of some barrier islands and knocking out electricity, but staying farther offshore than feared. There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

    By midday Friday, Earl had dropped to a Category 1 storm down from a fearsome Category 4 with 145-mph winds a day earlier.

    President Obama on Friday declared a state of emergency in 10 Massachusetts counties, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The action frees up federal funds to save lives and protect property and public health.

    On Nantucket Island, in Massachusetts, officials had closed the port of Nantucket and the airport to protect the traveling public, said Gerry Connick, innkeeper at the Century House Bed and Breakfast.

    Around Martha's Vineyard, a few residents had boarded up windows, a mandatory curfew forced businesses to close by 2 p.m., and dozens of boats pulled out of Oak Bluffs Marina, harbormaster Todd Alexander said. On a normal Labor Day weekend with good weather, there would be 175 boats in the harbor. On Friday, only 32 boats had remained, tied to mooring lines for safety.

    On Delaware's beaches, the hurricane probably didn't cause too much shoreline erosion, said Tony Pratt, a shoreline administrator for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

    He said nor'easters often cause more destruction to the beach. Nor'easters often last for several days instead of just one and that means the storm surge will be felt over a great number of high tides, he said.

    "I think we have very little to worry about with this storm," Pratt said.

    Bethany Beach, Del., resident Margaret Young said Hurricane Earl proved to be mostly hype.

    "They all last about one day," Young said. "Before that, the sun is bright and shining and the ocean is wild. Afterward, it takes about a day for the water to settle down."

    On North Carolina's barrier islands, the Outer Banks, the sun came out Friday afternoon and traffic increased during the day, even as water in some side streets reached the axles.

    Earl's skirting of the North Carolina and Virginia coast caused $25 million to $100 million in damage, said Tom Larsen, senior vice president of catastrophe risk modeling firm EQECAT.

    A normal Labor Day brings 200,000 to 250,000 people to the Outer Banks, which have only 33,000 year-round residents, said Dorothy Toolan, spokeswoman for Dare County Emergency Management. "It's one of our biggest holiday weekends," she said.

    Barbara Mosher, a reservationist at Nags Head Realty, said some visitors were coming back after evacuating earlier in the week and others were coming to start their vacations.

    The parking lot outside was strewn with blue shingles from the building's roof, but Mosher said there were no reports of damage to rental properties and the outlook for the weekend was "sunny and bright."

    "The storm is gone so we're back to normal sunshine and warm," she said.

    In Hyde County, N.C., emergency managers were also relieved.

    "We are very lucky," said Jamie Tunnell, Hyde County spokeswoman. "There was no major damage anywhere, no complete road closures or injuries."

    Ferry operations, which halted Thursday, will remain suspended until the U.S. Coast Guard can make sure the channels are cleared.

    Peak winds reached 86 mph on Ocracoke Island, where flooding reached 2 to 3 feet.

    Contributing: Wallace McKelvey, The Daily Times, Salisbury, Md.; Associated Press

    Hurricane Smurricane. Damage = eh.

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