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Earl Makes Landfall at Nova Scotia

The Chatham Lighthouse, situated at a working U.S. Coast Guard Station, casts its beam into a foggy evening, in Chatham, Mass., on Cape Cod, Friday, Sept. 3, 2010.
AP Photo/Steven Senne
Last Updated 10:59 a.m. ET

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Earl made landfall near Western Head, Nova Scotia about 10:00 a.m. ET this morning, bringing severe tropical storm conditions that are affecting a large portion of the province.

Maximum sustained winds are 70 mph, with higher gusts. The National Hurricane Center says tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 205 miles from the storm's center.

Earl's brush with the Northeast United States was far less intense than feared, dumping wind-driven rain on Cape Cod's gray-shingled cottages and fishing villages.

Officials planned to survey the damage from the storm at daybreak, but early reports showed only a few hundred power outages, a handful of downed power lines and isolated flooding in Massachusetts.

At 5:00 a.m. ET, Earl was about 145 miles southwest of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

In Chatham, Mass., CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports Earl turned out to be "a very gentle hurricane," bringing rain and wind, but in manageable portions; colder waters the storm encountered as it steamed north zapped it of its strength, while colder air blew it off course, sending it swirling in a more easterly direction.

Seas churned with 15-foot waves off Cape Cod, and winds reached 75 miles per hour, but mostly the breeze off the sea moved at a 30- to 40-mile-an-hour clip.

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Earl drenched shoreline communities from North Carolina to Maine in the last 36 hours and most swimmers were kept out of the water due to dangerous rip tides. But for many the storm was weak enough to go outside and watch in person.

A beachgoer in New Jersey was not that impressed: "Total disappointment, yeah - missed the mark," he said.

In Earl's wake, many were eager to get back to business on this holiday weekend. And the forecast for today on the Cape should make Earl a distant memory: 81ºF, partly sunny - perfect for a holiday weekend.

Earl swooped into New England waters Friday night as a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph after sideswiping North Carolina's Outer Banks, where it caused flooding but no injuries and little damage. The rain it brought to Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard was more typical of the nor'easters that residents have been dealing with for generations.

Winds on Nantucket, closest to the storm's center, blew at around 30 mph, with gusts above 40 mph. The island got about 1.5 inches of rain, while adjacent Martha's Vineyard got more than 3 inches.

Nantucket, the well-to-do resort island and old-time whaling port, briefly saw some localized flooding, but it was similar to other summer storms and had cleared within hours, Nantucket Assistant Town Manager Gregg Tivnan said. There were no evacuations, power outages or even reports of trees down, he said.

"The south side of the island certainly did take a hit. We'll assess the damage and the erosion to the beach tomorrow, but so far don't have any report of major damage," Tivnan said late Friday.

In the hours and days before the storm, vacationers had pulled their boats from the water and canceled Labor Day weekend reservations on Nantucket. Shopkeepers boarded up their windows. Swimmers in New England were warned to stay out of the water - or off the beach altogether - because of the danger of getting swept away by high waves.

Airlines canceled dozens of flights into New England, and Amtrak suspended train service between New York and Boston.

The center of the storm passed about 105 miles east-southeast of Nantucket early Saturday and was moving away from the U.S., toward Nova Scotia.

The storm weakened faster than predicted and would continue to diminish, Gould said. "We may still see some wind damage on the outer Cape and Nantucket, but it's not going to be substantial by any means," she said.

Earl dulled quickly over the course of 36 hours. At midday Friday, it had dropped to a Category 1 storm - down from a fearsome Category 4 with 145 mph winds a day earlier. At 11 p.m., it was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Officials had warned New England residents against complacency, but many in Chatham, a fishing village at Cape Cod's eastern edge, didn't seem worried.

Late Friday, when it appeared Earl would not deliver its strongest punch, the town's beach turned festive. People ran on the sand and a teenager in an alien-like suit measured wind speeds.

Earl stayed far off New Jersey and the eastern tip of New York's Long Island as it made its way north.

The storm did kick up dangerous riptides up and down the coast. In New Jersey, two young men apparently died earlier this week in the rough surf caused by Earl and the hurricane before it, Danielle. Fog, wind and roiling seas also hindered the search for a boater who went missing before Earl's arrival early Friday afternoon in New Hampshire.

Officials warned that rip currents would continue to be a concern Saturday and Sunday. With offshore seas up to 20 feet, beaches also would continue to see big waves that could knock people off jetties or piers.

Rhode Island got a lot of rain, but there were no reports of damage or major flooding, said Lt. Col. Bruce Fletcher, spokesman for the Rhode Island National Guard.

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, officials had urged tens of thousands of visitors and residents to leave the dangerously exposed islands as the storm closed in, but hundreds chose to wait it out in their boarded-up homes.

Earl's winds had dropped to 105 mph by the time the storm brushed past the ribbon of islands before dawn Friday, and the storm center got no closer to shore than 85 miles. Hurricane-force winds, which start at 74 mph, apparently did not even reach the Outer Banks, said the National Hurricane Center's chief forecaster, James Franklin.

Twenty miles out off the Maine coast, lobstermen on Matinicus Island were cautious after getting fooled by Hurricane Bill, which missed the mainland last year but sent tides and rough seas that destroyed their traps. This time, they moved their gear to the safety of deeper water or pulled their traps out altogether.

At Maine's Acadia National Park, officials closed most of a road where a 7-year-old girl was swept to her death by a 20-foot wave last year while watching the swells from Bill.

After skirting Massachusetts, Earl was headed for Canada. Tropical storms typically weaken when they enter the colder waters between Maine and Canada, but many Nova Scotia residents stocked up on bottled water and canned goods, fearing a repeat of 2003, when Hurricane Juan killed eight and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Others counted on Earl being downgraded. A biker rally expected to draw thousands in Digby, Nova Scotia, on Saturday wasn't canceled, and thousands of motorcycles lined the main street Friday night.

Bob Martin, of Halifax, said the looming storm wasn't a big deal.

"We're putting our motorcycles in a buddy's garage," he said. "We're just going to party and let the storm go by."