Massachusetts exhales as Bill passes, heads to Canada

A surfer waits to ride Hurricane Bill-generated waves Saturday at New York's Rockaway Beach.
Bill, a Category 1 hurricane, moved along the New England coast Sunday morning as authorities maintained tropical storm warnings for parts of eastern Canada.

Though beaches along the Massachusetts coast remained closed, the National Weather Service lifted its tropical storm warnings there at 8 a.m. Stuart Smith, the harbormaster in Chatham, Massachusetts, said there were reports of “insignificant” storm-related damage, but Bill did not cause much concern. “I think we really dodged a bullet,” he said. “It stayed just enough offshore to give us a break.” Watch how Canada is bracing for Bill » It’s good news for the first family, which was planning to arrive in Martha’s Vineyard on Sunday. Rain was scant in Chatham on Sunday morning as residents went about their normal business. Doug Ricciardi, owner of the Chatham Pier Fish Market, was making 5-gallon buckets of chowder, as he does every morning. He said he was expecting a typically busy day at his restaurant. Watch how surf warnings persist in North Carolina » “We always take these storms seriously,” he said. Outside a few reports of small boats being washed ashore or coming loose from their moorings, the only concern was a home on nearby North Beach Island that could fall prey to beach erosion, Smith said.

Authorities intend to closely inspect the home Sunday afternoon, he said. Patrick O’Connell of Chatham said he has a house on North Beach Island, and neither his nor his neighbor’s house suffered any damage. As of 8 a.m., Hurricane Bill was about 175 miles south-southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to the National Weather Service. The storm had sustained winds of 85 mph, with stronger gusts, and was moving northeast at 31 mph, the center reported. “Large swells generated by Hurricane Bill will continue to affect much of the U.S. East Coast and spread into the Atlantic maritimes of Canada today,” the 8 a.m. advisory said. “These swells will likely cause extremely dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents.” Watch a primer on rip currents » Rip currents, or riptides, are strong seaward flows of water that occur where there’s a break in the shoreline. They are difficult to detect. The water is unsafe even for “strong swimmers,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick warned Saturday. Smith said the beaches should reopen Monday at 2 p.m. after the heavy surf and riptides pass. The Coast Guard reported that swells reached 18 feet about 15 miles off the Massachusetts coast early Sunday. The swells began diminishing around 3 a.m., and swells off the coast of Chatham on Sunday morning were 11 feet. Watch the waves crash on Massachusetts beach » CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf said the temperature of water off Virginia Beach and the New Jersey shoreline is in the 80s, but cooler water will slow down the storm. The storm is picking up speed in terms of progress, he said. He predicted Bill would make landfall in Newfoundland, Canada. President Obama and his family are scheduled to arrive Sunday for a vacation at Martha’s Vineyard. “We look forward to welcoming him to Massachusetts as soon as he can safely get here,” Patrick said. Though tropical storm warnings were lifted in the U.S., they remained in effect for parts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, all in Canada. Are you bracing for Hurricane Bill A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 24 hours. A watch means conditions are expected to change within 36 hours.

Hurricane Bill skirted Bermuda, leaving rain in its wake. The tropical storm warning for Bermuda was discontinued. The weather service reported that swells from Bill continued to affect Bermuda early Sunday, but should gradually diminish over the course of the day.