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Edouard Takes Aim On Crowded Beaches Of Northeast

September 2, 1996

BOSTON (AP) _ Hurricane Edouard’s outer fringes lashed southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island late Sunday with heavy rains and strong winds, washing out plans for Labor Day parades and picnics.

As the storm lurked just off the Northeast coast, its wobbling and weakening winds of 90 mph left forecasters unsure whether its center would make landfall. But they said it was still possible Edouard could come very close to, or over, southeastern New England early Monday.

Nantucket, the small island off Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, lost power early Sunday evening as 50-mph gusts blew through and storms filled waterfront streets with 1 1/2 feet of water.

Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld declared a state of emergency, police in some coastal communities asked residents to evacuate voluntarily and the Red Cross opened shelters throughout the region.

``I’ve never been in a hurricane before, so I came here to feel a little safer,″ said Brian Alton, who joined about 140 others at a shelter at Nantucket High School.

Vacationers, many of whom had just arrived for the Labor Day weekend, turned around and fled the area’s resort beaches. Outbound traffic was backed up 18 miles on Cape Cod _ roughly half the length of the peninsula _ as outer bands of rain from the storm began falling.

``People are checking out of the hotel and canceling reservations,″ said Jane Currie-Silva, owner of The Galley on Cliffside Beach on Nantucket. ``We took down the awning and boarded up the entire property ... We’ve closed up as if for season.″

A hurricane warning was in effect from Watch Hill, R.I., to the Merrimack River in Massachusetts, a region including Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island.

By 11 p.m., Edouard was centered about 140 miles south-southeast of Nantucket and was moving slightly east of north near 14 mph. The storm’s top winds had weakened to 90 mph, down from as high as 140 mph late last week, and forecasters said more weakening is expected as Edouard moves over cooler water.

While forecasters said Edouard is on course to bring hurricane conditions to southeastern New England early Monday, they said there is still a chance the eye could avoid land.

``Latest reports from a hurricane hunter plane suggest a trend toward a slightly east of northward motion over the past several hours,″ said National Hurricane Center forecaster Richard Pasch. ``If this trend continues, the center of the hurricane could remain offshore.″

Edouard already had been blamed for two deaths in the pounding waves along the New Jersey shore, where a third person suffered a broken neck while surfing. A man who went surfing in the rough surf of Virginia Beach, Va., was missing Sunday night.

Swimming was banned at most beaches along the southern shore of New York’s Long Island, and heavy waves off that coastline interrupted the work of recovering wreckage of TWA Flight 800.

Mattapoisett’s village center, normally busy on a holiday weekend, was almost deserted, but Brownell Boat Yard on the harbor was busy as owners had their boats hauled ashore.

And bicyclists, dog-walkers and strollers watched the sea under the leaden sky.

``This is entertainment; it’s very exciting,″ said Mattapoisett town clerk Lois Ennis, sitting on a bench outside the harbor master’s office.

Fearing power outages and other damage, Salve Regina College in Newport, R.I., contacted students and told them not to report for school as scheduled Monday.

Meantime, Hurricane Fran was 800 miles east-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas, with top winds of 85 mph.

``We certainly do think that it will strengthen,″ forecaster Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said of Fran. ``In three days it will be east of the Bahamas. And it certainly has the potential to threaten the southeastern United States.″

Farther out to sea, Tropical Storm Gustav was 200 miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands.

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