Hurricane Bill blamed in deaths on US East Coast

Large wave fueled by Hurricane Bill sweeps spectators out to sea at a Maine park.

Maine storm 248.88 (photo credit: )
Maine storm 248.88
(photo credit: )
A large wave fueled by 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. Two people were killed. A 7-year-old girl who was pulled from the sea near Acadia National Park later died, and a 54-year-old swimmer died after washing ashore unconscious Saturday in Florida, authorities said. The girl, her father and a 12-year-old girl were all plucked from the water by rescuers. The man and his daughter are from New York City, Acadia National Park Chief Ranger Stuart West said. The other girl is from Belfast, Maine, and is not related to them, West said. He would not release their names. The man and the 12-year-old were hospitalized. The three were part of an early afternoon crowd of thousands who lined the national park's rocky shoreline to watch the high surf and crashing waves, which were "absolutely the effects of Hurricane Bill" coupled with the effect of high tide, park ranger Sonya Berger said. The hurricane was also blamed for the death of a 54-year-old swimmer Saturday in Florida. Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn said Angel Rosa was found ashore near 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 believed to have suffered spinal injuries. The center of the hurricane was about 230 miles (370 kilometers) west of Newfoundland on Sunday night, according to the National Hurricane Center. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (121 kph), and it was moving northeast at 35 mph (56 kph). The storm is expected to continue to lose strength as it moves over cooler waters. At Acadia National Park, the waves swept over 20 people, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Sansoucie said. West said 11 people were taken to the hospital, mainly for broken bones after being slammed onto the rocks. West said people occasionally slip on the park's rocks into the ocean, but it's unusual for them to be swept away by waves. James Kaiser of Bar Harbor was taking photographs when he heard shouts that people had been swept into the 55-degree (13-degree Celsius) water at the park's Thunder Hole, a popular tourist attraction where waves often crash into a crevasse and make a thundering sound while splashing high in the air. "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. A rope closed off a viewing platform at Thunder Hole, but hundreds watched from nearby rocks, Kaiser said. Many people didn't even move when they were splashed by the waves and instead seemed to laugh it off, he said. Along Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast, the storm delivered steady downpours and fierce winds, forcing flight cancellations and temporary road closings. Bill ripped branches from trees in Halifax and elsewhere, and there was some localized flooding. Some 40,000 Nova Scotia Power customers lost power, but it was gradually being restored Sunday. Craig MacLaughlan, CEO of Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office, said no major damage has been reported in the province. 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 harbor. In Massachusetts, President Barack Obama and his family arrived in Martha's Vineyard on Sunday 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 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. The storm delayed or halted ferry services from New York to Maine, and kept many beaches closed.