BAR HARBOR, Maine ― John England is used to severe weather in Maine. Originally from Newton, Mass., the 64-year-old remembers the damage wrought by Hurricane Bob in 1991, which he called the worst storm he’s ever seen.
And the weakened, downgraded Hurricane Lee — which knocked out power for thousands, kicked up tropical-force winds, and dumped inches of rain in some areas Saturday — was no Bob.
“Everyone went into a panic for nothing,” said England, as he shopped at a grocery store in Winter Harbor Saturday afternoon. “It was very overblown.”
Locals and tourists alike seemed to take Lee’s arrival in stride Saturday, as the storm brought strong winds and heavy rain across much of the state, including its vast coastline.
In the days leading to the storm, state leaders warned about its potential dangers.
Indeed, a 51-year-old man died in Searsport Saturday morning after a large tree limb fell on his vehicle Saturday as he drove on Route 1 during a period of high winds.
The branch brought down live power lines, and utility workers had to cut power before the man could be removed, said Police Chief Brian Lunt. The man died later at a hospital, Lunt said.
Governor Janet Mills declared a state of emergency Thursday, while the threat led forecasters to trigger the first hurricane watch in Maine in 15 years.
As of early Saturday evening, storm damage had left roughly 90,000 customers without power across the state after trees knocked out power lines, according to local electrical utilities.
England, who was shopping for cornbread and soup at the Winter Harbor Provisions store midafternoon Saturday, shook his head at the forecasting in the days before Lee struck.
Hurricanes in Maine bring wind and rain, said England, who has lived in the state since 1985, and works near the store maintaining boats.
The storm predictions led many people to pull their boats from the water, he said.
“They had the eye, at one time, forecast over Bar Harbor, and everybody just went crazy,” England said. “I think people enjoy the thrill of the hype.”
In Bar Harbor Saturday, the view from Agamont Park was of a gray, swirling sky that seemed to fold downward into the white-capped sea below, as waves crashed against the rocks. In the distance, boats tied up in the water bobbed up and down, and beyond that, fog partially obscured Bar Island.
Even the seagulls seemed to acknowledge the stormy conditions, and a flock hunkered on a park hillside overlooking the water.
But many people who ventured out to enjoy the day. Some were joggers, dressed only in shorts and T-shirts. Other people dressed in bulky rain gear had ventured out to take in views of the roiling ocean waves.
Among them were Dana Nuenighoff and Nick Ferry, who were celebrating their first anniversary in Bar Harbor. The couple visit every year and became engaged here, Nuenighoff said.
The New Hampshire couple have Massachusetts roots — Nuenighoff is from Harvard, Ferry is from Saugus. They saw the weekend forecast, but decided tradition won out.
“We were like, we’re going to come up anyway,” Nuenighoff laughed, as the couple walked along Bar Harbor’s waterfront in Agamont Park.
Ferry said he kind of liked the weather.
“It’s a different perspective, when you come up here all the time. you get to drive downtown and there’s nobody here, and you don’t have to struggle for parking,” he said. “We’re just rolling with it.”
Steve Miller, 72, who was born and raised in Bar Harbor, was also out trying to get a sense of the storm’s impact.
“We get nor’easters in the winter mostly. So it’s not that uncommon,” Miller said. “There have been worse nor’easters up here.”
“We’re a pretty hardy people up here,” said Miller “We’re just taking it in stride.”
Miller, who was still watching the storm unfold along Bar Harbor’s shoreline a few hours later, said it wasn’t as powerful as one that struck last winter and damaged a pier’s walkway.
He noted the dozens watching the waves despite the wind and rain. Some brought cups of coffee; others posed for selfies.
“Tourists get a kick out of it,” Miller said.
The wind and rain gave people a reason to seek refuge in restaurants, where they could enjoy dinner and drinks — and be dry.
At Geddy’s restaurant in Bar Harbor, general manager Ben Curtis said locals weren’t daunted by the storm, which he compared to a nor’easter.
“If you’re from here, grew up here, it’s not the scariest thing,” said Curtis, whose family has owned the restaurant for decades.
Officials did the right thing in their warnings ahead of Lee’s arrival, he said, and it was better to be safe than sorry. The storm probably kept some people away, but it also drew some in and the restaurant remained busy.
“There probably would have been more people without the weather, but it does push people inside . . . so it was pretty good for us,” Curtis said. “It worked out pretty good. Definitely a drinking day, for sure.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.