Wave from Hurricane Bill sweeps people out to sea at Maine national park; search under way

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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EDGARTOWN, Massachusetts - A rogue wave from Hurricane Bill swept spectators out to sea at a Maine park Sunday as the storm-churned surf attracted onlookers and daredevils along the Eastern Seaboard.

Five people were swept into the ocean after an early afternoon crowd had gathered on some rocks at Acadia National Park when the wave washed over them. Two were recovered, and the Coast Guard and search crews were looking for the three others.

"This is absolutely the effects of Hurricane Bill" coupled with the effect of high tide, park ranger Sonya Berger said.

Bill was also blamed for the death of a 54-year-old swimmer who was killed Saturday in Florida. Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said Angel Rosa was unconscious when he washed ashore in rough waves fueled by Bill at New Smyrna Beach along the central Florida coast. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Lifeguards there also rescued a handful of other swimmers with suspected spinal injuries.

The centre of the hurricane was about 400 miles (644 kilometres) west-southwest of Newfoundland late Sunday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its maximum sustained winds had dropped to 75 mph (121 kph), and it was moving northeast at 35 mph (56 kph). The storm is expected to continue to weaken as it moves over cooler waters.

In Canada, the hurricane was expected to bring up to 7 inches (18 centimetres) of rain to Nova Scotia and was expected to approach Newfoundland by Sunday night.

Power outages were reported across Nova Scotia's southern shore, affecting more than 32,000 customers, according to Nova Scotia Power, and some roadways near the province's coastline were closed.

Craig MacLaughlan, CEO of Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office, said no major damage has been reported in the province.

"We can be blessed that it has moved off a bit and that we're not getting some of the damage that we thought (we would)," he said.

The storm drew onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse of crashing waves as it marched through Atlantic Canada.

Despite repeated warnings, people gathered in Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, and along the boardwalk in downtown Halifax as swells grew steadily in strength and size.

"So far, it's pretty wild," said Heather Wright, who was walking along the Halifax harbour.

"We're not going right to the edges or nothing. And we're here mainly to sightsee a bit and go back home and ride it out."

The National Hurricane Center had lifted the tropical storm warning for the Massachusetts coastline, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket early Sunday morning, and President Barack Obama and his family arrived on Cape Cod on Sunday afternoon for vacation after the storm had passed well to the east.

Several people also 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 Sunday.

"Our biggest thing right now is just the rough surf," he said.

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 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.

Organizations: National Hurricane Center, Coast Guard, Nova Scotia Power Emergency Management Office Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency

Geographic location: Maine, Nova Scotia, Florida Newfoundland Eastern Seaboard Acadia National Park Atlantic Canada Volusia Beach Patrol New Smyrna Beach Halifax Massachusetts Martha's Vineyard South Beach Peggy Nantucket Cape Cod Plymouth New York

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