Posted on 24 Aug 2009
Hurricane Bill may be weakening as it moves out into the Atlantic, but the storm's still-strong winds nevertheless managed to churn up powerful waves that resulted in the deaths of at least two people on the East Coast.
A 7-year-old girl died in Maine after she, her father and a 12-year-old girl were swept into the water Sunday off Acadia National Park's Thunder Hole, where tourists often gather to watch waves crash into a crevasse and make a thundering sound while splashing high in the air.
In New Smyrna Beach along the central Florida coast, a 54-year-old swimmer died after he was washed ashore unconscious near rough waves fueled by Bill. The man, Angel Rosa of Orlando, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The system still had tropical-storm strength winds near 70 mph early Monday. Its center was about 190 miles off the coast of Newfoundland and is moving east-northeast near 43 mph. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted it would continue to weaken as it moves from the Canadian coast in the Atlantic.
At Acadia National Park, about 110 miles northeast of Portland, park officials said an estimated 10,000 people, lured by the wild ocean, converged on the park's loop road trying to get a good view of waves more than 15 feet high crashing against the rocky shore.
"The problem was there were thousands and thousands of people to try to keep an eye on," said Chief Ranger Stuart West.
The U.S. Coast Guard reported that the waves swept over 20 people. West said 11 people were taken to the hospital, mainly for broken bones after being slammed onto the rocks.
The 7-year-old girl who died and her father are from New York City. The 12-year-old girl who also was swept into the churning, 55-degree water is from Belfast, Maine, and is not related to them, West said. He would not release their names.
A Thunder Hole viewing platform was closed, and they were among hundreds of people watching the waves from nearby rocks. Many people didn't even move when the waves splashed them and instead seemed to laugh it off, West said.
James Kaiser of nearby Bar Harbor was taking photographs when he heard shouts that people had been swept into the water.
"I could see two people's heads bobbing in the water," Kaiser said. He said he thought they would be bounced back to shore because the waves were coming in so hard but that instead the current took them away from shore.
In Massachusetts, President Barack Obama and his family arrived in Martha's Vineyard yesterday afternoon for vacation after the storm had passed well to the east.
Several people had to be rescued from the water in Massachusetts, including a couple of kayakers who got stranded in the heavy seas off Plymouth, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
He said strong rip tides and beach erosion were the biggest concerns yesterday.
Dozens of people showed up at South Beach on Martha's Vineyard with their cameras and camcorders to watch the big waves and churning Atlantic.
Tony Dorsey of Goffstown, N.H., has a camp on the Vineyard. He said the waves came up to the top of the dunes at South Beach during high tide, and included "good-size rollers.
"It overwhelmed the beach," he said. "It reformed the beach. It's not destroyed a lot, but it's going to reshape the beach."
The storm delayed or halted ferry services from New York to Maine, and kept many beaches closed.
In Montauk, N.Y., swimmers weren't allowed in the water, but surfers were out riding the waves. State parks spokesman George Gorman said almost 2,000 surfers showed up at Montauk on Sunday - the most ever counted there. They enjoyed waves that reached as high as 16 feet.
The storm delivered steady downpours and high winds as it moved into Canada Sunday night, forcing flight cancellations and temporary road closings along Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast. Bill ripped branches from trees in Halifax and elsewhere, and there was some localized flooding. But no major damage had been reported in the province by late last night, according to Craig MacLaughlan, head of Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office.