With Earl's exit, New England gets on with Labor Day

By Russell Contreras
Saturday, September 4, 2010; 5:47 PM

YARMOUTH, MASS. - In the end, Earl's worst damage in New England was to seasonal businesses hoping to end their summer on a high note.

The tropical storm, far less intense than feared, brushed past the Northeast and dumped heavy, wind-driven rain on Cape Cod cottages and fishing villages, but caused little damage.

It left clear blue skies in its wake. It was the perfect start to a Labor Day weekend that Cape Cod's restaurants and hotels hoped to salvage after business dropped off ahead of the storm.

"This traditionally for us is a sellout weekend," said Voula Nikolakopoulos, one of the owners of Tidewater Inn in West Yarmouth, where business was down 80 percent. "I understand that we have to be careful, but I think all this hype was premature."

After skimming past North Carolina and Massachusetts, Earl made landfall Saturday morning near Western Head, Nova Scotia.

The storm brought sheets of rain and wind gusts, toppling some trees and knocking out power to more than 200,000 customers in Nova Scotia. There were numerous flight and ferry cancellations. Police said the road to the popular Peggy's Cove tourist site near Halifax was closed to keep curious storm-watchers away from the dangerous, pounding surf.

Earl had swooped into New England waters Friday night as a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph. Winds on Nantucket blew at about 30 mph, with gusts above 40 mph. The island recorded more than 2 inches of rain, while adjacent Martha's Vineyard had more than 4 inches. Hyannis, home to Kennedy compound, received about 4.5 inches.

Shopkeepers boarded up their windows and vacationers canceled reservations. Some hoteliers reported that business was way off.

Nikolakopoulos said her hotel was full last year on Labor Day weekend. On Friday night, it was at about 20 percent occupancy. She was hoping to recapture some of the lost business with a storm special that cut rates from about $130 to $85.

Massachusetts officials were hopeful that last-minute vacationers would make up for the cancellations. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) walked around Chatham on Saturday morning, proclaiming, "The sun is out and the Cape is open for business."

Earl, once a fearsome Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds, buzzed past the eastern edge of Maine on Saturday morning. There were no reports of storm damage and little for storm watchers to see.

Bruce and Amy Hodgdon drove to the nation's eastern tip in Lubec, Maine, hoping to see dramatic surf pounding the rocks near the candy-striped West Quoddy Head lighthouse. Once there, they didn't bother to get out of their van.

"Pretty mild," Bruce Hodgdon said.

"Business as usual," Amy Hodgdon added.

- Associated Press

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