OCEAN CITY FRANK ROYLANCE, WILLIAM THOMPSON AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY. — OCEAN CITY -- Mother Nature spared Ocean City again today, as Hurricane Bob swept past Maryland's beaches a safe 100 miles offshore, dealing the resort some hard rains and 50 mph gusts, but little else.
By mid-morning, Ocean City Mayor Roland E. "Fish" Powell had declared "the storm is passed" and urged lifeguards to let vacationers back "a little way" into the still-violent surf.
"It's vacation time," he said.
Not so on Long Island and southern New England, which remained in Bob's bulls-eye. The still-dangerous storm was bearing down on that area with sustained 115 mph winds and gusts to 138 mph.
"It looks like the eye of the storm is going to go right across Long Island . . . ," said weather service meteorologist Gary Conte. "The eastern end will see winds of potentially more than 100 miles per hour."
In Rhode Island, officials feared storm surges of water into the state's heavily populated bays.
"We're preparing for what could be a direct hit to the state," Lt. Gov. Roger Begin said.
Public safety officials in Ocean City told Powell this morning that Bob had done no discernible damage to city streets, utility lines and traffic lights. Even the beach escaped with only minor erosion.
The only damage city workers had found was a glass door blown from someone's property, and a rider who was blown off his moped in the middle of the night.
"All in all, right now things look real good for Ocean City," said police spokesman Jay Hancock. The rain and winds were expected to rapidly diminish, making way for partly sunny conditions by mid-afternoon.
People in some Ocean-front condominiums and hotels watched the storm's progress from their balconies. Some visitors ventured onto Ocean City's boardwalk and a few walked to water's edge.
The storm's course, 90 to 100 miles offshore at low tide, helped minimize flooding and beach erosion. High tides were running about one foot above normal.
North Carolina wasn't so lucky. The west wall of Bob's eye slammed into the Outer Banks last night, where it knocked out power, toppled trees and caused flooding. But no injuries or major damage were reported.
Hurricane and tropical storm warnings for Maryland were dropped at 10 a.m.
Officials estimated about 1,000 people spent the night in local shelters in Ocean City and surrounding Worcester County. They came from areas where evacuation had been urged: campgrounds and trailer parks prone to flooding.
Last night the wind and spray proclaiming the coming of Hurricane Bob swept the crowds from the honky-tonk streets of Ocean City.
Just after midnight last night, the ocean boulevard was bare, except for a few young people looking for rides home in the driving rain.
Lifeguard stands, benches, trash cans and anything else not nailed down were cleared from the beaches and boardwalk.
The action, such as it was, could be found inside. In the basement bar of the Castle in the Sand hotel, on the ocean beach, the Jefferson family was enjoying a nightcap.
Mary Lou Jefferson, from Cockeysville, said a friend from home had called earlier yesterday in a tizzy to ask: "Are you all right?"
Jefferson said she was and that the television news seemed to be whipping up panic over the fate of Ocean City.
"You get the idea we're not hysterical," Jefferson said.
Behind the bar, Paul Dewald served drinks to a small, subdued clientele and assured them that, of all the hurricanes he's seen in 21 years of growing up in Ocean City, this one was looking "pretty weak."
But many other people fled the beach yesterday as the storm began to make its presence felt.
State Police reported that cars were backed up for eight miles east of U.S. 50 on Md. 404, one of the main routes away from the Maryland and Delaware coast resorts. Traffic was clogged for miles at several other places on U.S. 50.
Authorities evacuated about 3,000 campers and day-trippers from low-lying Assateague Island, just south of Ocean City, said Jim Martin, a ranger at Assateague
Officials set up four emergency shelters in the Ocean City area and urged elderly or disabled residents to go there. People living in mobile homes or in flood-prone areas were urged to leave as well.
"Quite a few people have canceled and a lot of people have been checking out early," said Kara Hal
ey, front desk clerk at the Comfort Inn, on 112 Street in Ocean City. "I don't have a choice. I have to work."
Late in the day, police in Ocean City began advising anyone asking about the hurricane to leave. Many people stayed put.
"We're not going anywhere. We're paid for a week," vacationer Mark Bowie said yesterday.
Bowie and his family arrived Saturday from Monrovia, in Frederick County, even after hearing a hurricane was on the way.
Bowie's wife, Brenda, said she was "worried just a little bit," while their 3-year-old daughter, Amy, said she would leave because "I don't like to get rain on my face."