A day after Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked for a "pre-landfall" declaration of emergency, Hurricane Earl largely bypassed Connecticut as it crept up the Eastern Seaboard on Friday, causing scattered power outages but no reported injuries or major damage.
"The waning intensity of the storm, combined with the slight change in direction, has meant that the winds and rains have so far been much more moderate than the National Hurricane Center computer models predicted," Rell said in a statement. "For that we can all be grateful."
The National Weather Service had issued tropical storm warnings for coastal areas from New Haven east to the Rhode Island state line before Earl weakened. The once-Category 4 hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm by late Friday.
Forecasters predicted Connecticut would most likely feel the brunt of storm's heaviest winds and rain late Friday.
Connecticut Light & Power spokesman Mitch Gross said the utility received reports of tree branches hitting power lines, leaving about 150 customers without electricity.
A statement from Amtrak said a combination of a tree falling, causing overhead electrical system damage in New London, and severe weather caused the rail service to suspend service between New York and Boston on Friday afternoon. An inspection on the line was planned for Saturday.
Many shoreline schools announced early dismissals Friday and state officials said seven campgrounds, including popular ones at Hammonasset Beach and Rocky Neck state parks, would be closed until noon Saturday.
The U.S. Coast Guard positioned its boats around Connecticut and Rhode Island to prepare for any rescues and to check navigation markers to make sure they weren't moved by the storm, said Lt. Tom Stokes, commanding officer of the Coast Guard station in New London, Conn.
"It's important that they're exactly where they're supposed to be," Stokes said.
But he said he hoped boaters heeded warnings to stay out of the water.
Rell asked President Barack Obama on Thursday to issue the emergency declaration to try to secure federal aid for public safety measures.
The White House said a team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency went to Connecticut to help with any major damage.
Rell ordered the opening of the state's emergency operations center in Hartford on Friday morning to monitor the storm, communicate with municipal leaders and deploy aid if needed. The governor said city and town officials were preparing sandbags and getting ready to evacuate areas and open shelters, if necessary.
In an earlier statement, the governor advised residents to monitor the storm, avoid dangerous situations, make sure their vehicles have fuel and clear yards of debris that could be blown into the air by high winds.
"Don't succumb to the temptation to venture outside for the 'experience.' Stay dry, and stay safe," Rell said.