Hurricane Gloria dealt a glancing blow to the East Coast on Friday, tearing down power lines and buckling boardwalks but causing less damage than expected before it rapidly weakened over New England. More than half a million people had fled what was once classified as one of the most dangerous Atlantic storms on record.
The National Weather Service said in an 5 p.m. PDT bulletin that Gloria was no longer a hurricane, with highest winds clocked at 50 m.p.h. All hurricane warnings were discontinued.
Five deaths were linked to the storm, which moved north after smashing into North Carolina before dawn with 130 m.p.h. winds.
Gloria weakened rapidly once it ran ashore, and thick, gray clouds were replaced by sunshine from North Carolina to Massachusetts. The gambling casinos of Atlantic City, N.J., had closed early as the storm approached, but on Friday they were reopening.
"For the storm of the century, it was a washout," said New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, whose office counted 572 trees down in the city.
'It Went Elsewhere'
Added Mayor Edward Koch: "We scared the hell out of the hurricane and it went elsewhere."
By mid-afternoon, the storm had sped up the Connecticut River Valley toward Vermont, where 50-m.p.h. winds forced some cars off roads, officials said. Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin declared a state of emergency, sent home non-essential state employees and placed 800 National Guardsmen on alert.
Hurricane warnings remained in effect from Watch Hill, R.I., to Eastport, Me.
In New York City, tens of thousands of people stayed home, and the twin 110-story towers of the World Trade Center and the Wall Street stock exchanges shut down. But the storm's effects were mostly limited to flooded streets, while trees and power lines were downed on Long Island.
Forecasters said widespread destruction was averted because the strongest winds remained on the east side of the hurricane's eye and over water, gradually weakening until they crossed eastern Long Island and began to dissipate, and because it coincided with low tide.
Gloria had approached the East Coast as one of the strongest Atlantic storms on record, with winds of up to 150 m.p.h.
The storm still had 100 m.p.h. winds when it rammed the Connecticut coast, breaking windows and crushing boats with 12-foot waves. But the National Hurricane Center said its central eye weakened rapidly.
In Boston Harbor, one of the upper spars on the foremast of the USS Constitution was broken, and a 450-foot radio transmission tower was toppled in Framingham, Mass.
Destruction along the East Coast appeared to be limited to downed trees and power lines, shattered piers and boardwalks, including the one in Atlantic City.
Casinos Lose Money
Atlantic City's casino operators were expected to lose thousands, perhaps millions of dollars in business as gaming tables shut down. A foot of water stood in the lobby of the posh Resorts International Casino Hotel. Only one window pane was broken at the all-glass Atlantis Hotel and Casino.
Part of an elementary school building collapsed in Accokeek, Md., a suburb of the District of Columbia, the National Weather Service said. It had reports of damaged homes on Jamaica Bay on New York's Long Island and a police station in Islip lost its roof.
Low-lying areas were flooded and more than 800,000 customers lost electricity from North Carolina to Vermont.
Before the storm struck, Connecticut Gov. William O'Neill put 2,000 National Guard troops on full alert, closed banks and ordered non-essential public employees to stay home. Bus and air travel were curtailed and high winds forced closure of the Gold Star Bridge over the Thames River.
At least 50,000 Connecticut residents were asked to evacuate but many stayed in their homes. Police and fire departments reported a rash of small electrical fires as power lines went down.
Deaths Blamed on Storm
Two people in Connecticut were killed in traffic accidents blamed on the storm. One person was killed when he touched a live power line at Long Branch, N.J., a 60-year-old utility worker was killed in Ramapo, N.Y., when he was struck by tree while repairing a gas main, and a Rhode Island man was killed by a falling tree.
Ahead of the storm, torrential rain fell well inland, up to six inches in the southern Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania, where small rivers rose, and two to four inches in New York's Catskills and Adirondacks. Southern New Jersey's Cumberland County had more than six inches of rain.
Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, Pa., got 6.42 inches of rain, a record there for a 24-hour period, and the weather service reported nine inches of rain in southeastern Pennsylvania's Carbon County. Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode said that 50 city streets and roads were flooded and 15 closed.
In Stamford, Conn., the Army Corps of Engineers raised a 35-foot-high steel storm barrier in the harbor to protect low-lying homes and boats. Rhode Island Gov. Edward DiPrete ordered several bridges closed.