Saturday, September 4, 2010

Earl's biggest damage in Northeast: business

 
Earl a 'dud' in New England Play Video AP  – Earl a 'dud' in New England
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From left in the canoe, Lexi Olson, 12, Petunia the pug, Corey Olsen, 9, and Amber Racette, 13, and in the water, Bennett Hartley, 7, and sister Ella, AP – From left in the canoe, Lexi Olson, 12, Petunia the pug, Corey Olsen, 9, and Amber Racette, 13, and in …

YARMOUTH, Mass. – 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 was decimated 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."
Massachusetts suffered a few hundred power outages, a handful of downed power lines and isolated flooding. Maine saw rain and churning surf, but no gusts strong enough to produce damage.
After skimming past both North Carolina and Massachusetts, Earl finally made landfall Saturday morning near Western Head, Nova Scotia.
The storm brought heavy sheets of rain and swift 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.
As of 2 p.m. EDT, Earl's center was crossing the Northhumberland Strait, north of mainland Nova Scotia and was moving northeast at 45 mph. The Canadian Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for parts of Nova Scotia.
Earl had 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 blew at around 30 mph, with gusts above 40 mph. The island got more than 2 inches of rain, while adjacent Martha's Vineyard got more than 4 inches. Hyannis, home to Kennedy compound, got about 4.5 inches.
Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said the damage was so minimal that the agency didn't send out assessment teams as planned Saturday.
"There's nothing to assess at this point," he said. "It wasn't even a really bad rainstorm."
Worries about Earl had altered holiday weekend plans up and down the East Coast.
Boaters pulled their vessels from the water, shopkeepers boarded up their windows and vacationers canceled reservations. Some hoteliers reported that business was way off.
Nikolakopoulos said her hotel was at 100 percent occupancy last year on Labor Day weekend. On Friday night, it was at about 20 percent. She was hoping to recapture some of lost business with a storm special that cut rates from an average of about $130 to an average of $85.
Kishor Patel, owner of the Super 8 in West Yarmouth, said a number of people who had two-day reservations canceled when word of Earl started to spread. Business was down 60 to 70 percent, he said.
"I'm hoping that it will pick up now that it is sunny and everything seems to be OK," he said.
Alix Foster, 34, of Clifton, N.J., said she and a friend decided to stay in a hotel on the mainland on Friday night instead of going onto Cape Cod as planned. The two opted to continue their planned vacation after seeing news reports that the weekend would be sunny and nice.
"The weather wasn't all that bad last night, but we didn't want to be stupid," Foster said. "I'm glad we kept our plans."
Massachusetts officials were hopeful that last-minute vacationers would make up for the cancellations. Gov. Deval Patrick walked around Chatham on Saturday morning, proclaiming, "The sun is out and the Cape is open for business."
Earl, once a fearsome Category 4 with 145 mph winds, did kick up dangerous riptides up and down the coast. Officials warned that rip currents would continue to be a concern over the weekend. With offshore seas up to 20 feet, beaches would continue to see big waves that could knock people off jetties or piers, officials warned.
The storm buzzed past the eastern edge of Maine on Saturday morning. There were no reports of storm damage and very 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 writers Rob Gillies in Halifax, Nova Scotia; David Sharp in Lubec, Maine; and Jay Lindsay and Rodrique Ngowi in Boston contributed to this report.

BP: Crews lifting key device from Gulf face delay

 
To Drill or Not to Drill? Play Video FOX News  – To Drill or Not to Drill?
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In this image taken from video provided by BP  PLC at 12:23 a.m. EDT, Saturday Sept. 4, 2010 Aug. 3, 2010 shows the blowout preventer that failed to s AP – In this image taken from video provided by BP PLC at 12:23 a.m. EDT, Saturday Sept. 4, 2010 Aug. 3, …

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO – Icelike crystals had formed Saturday on the 300-ton blowout preventer that failed to stop oil from spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, forcing BP crews to wait before they could safely hoist the device to the surface.
The hydrates — which caused the oil giant problems when the company was trying to contain the oil spilling into the Gulf — need to melt because they are combustible. Crews must take care not to damage the device, which is considered a key piece of evidence in the spill investigation.
"We don't want to lift it and risk an uncontrolled release of gas because that's inherently dangerous," Darin Hilton, the captain of the Helix Q4000 vessel that's raising the device with a giant crane, told The Associated Press.
The AP was the only news outlet with a print reporter and photographer on board the ship.
The device would be lifted the final 500 feet to the surface once it was assured the hydrates had dissipated. It was not an unexpected delay, Hilton said. Before the stop, it had been painstakingly raised at a rate of about 450 feet to 500 feet per hour.
Marvin Morrison, BP's wellsite leader aboard the Q4000, said workers aren't just waiting for the hydrates to melt normally. Men in red jumpsuits and white hardhats could be seen on the deck using enormous wrench-like tools to turn dials on pipes that were dousing the blowout preventer with warm seawater to speed up the melting.
Hydrates form when gases such as methane mix with water under high pressure and cold temperatures. The crystals caused BP PLC problems in May, when the company tried to place a 100-ton, four-story dome over the leak to contain it.
One man on the deck in a white cage with glass windows is using a joystick to guide the crane holding the blowout preventer upward. It will ultimately be raised through a large hatch in the underbelly of the Q4000 up to the top deck, where it will then be placed on what is essentially a huge, metal holding device called a shipping skid.
The device likely wouldn't be hoisted onto the vessel until sometime Saturday evening.
There are 137 people aboard the ship, including FBI agents who are waiting to take possession of the device after its mile-long journey. It will eventually be taken to a NASA facility in Michoud, La., to be analyzed.
The 50-foot device was detached from the wellhead Friday afternoon. Another blowout preventer had successfully been placed on the blown-out well. Officials wanted a new blowout preventer to deal with any pressure that is caused when a relief well BP has been drilling intersects the blown-out well.
Once that intersection occurs sometime after Labor Day, BP is expected to use mud and cement to plug the blown-out well for good from the bottom.
The April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of oil spewing from BP's undersea well.
Investigators know the explosion was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before igniting.
But they don't know exactly how or why the gas escaped. And they don't know why the blowout preventer didn't seal the well pipe at the sea bottom after the eruption, as it was supposed to. While the device didn't close — or may have closed partially — hearings have produced no clear picture of why it didn't plug the well.
Lawyers will be watching closely, as hundreds of lawsuits have been filed over the oil spill. Future liabilities faced by a number of corporations could be riding on what the analysis of the blowout preventer shows.