By David Bailey
(Reuters) - Arthur weakened from hurricane force on Saturday and pelted parts of southeast Canada with heavy rain and strong winds, leaving 250,000 homes and businesses without power, as the storm swept away from New England.
Arthur weakened to a tropical storm on Saturday morning after having reached landfall on North Carolina's Outer Banks late on Thursday as a Category 2 hurricane, snarling plans for tourists at the start of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
North Carolina reported only slight damage from the hurricane, which quickly traveled northeast.
Arthur, now a post-tropical storm, was centered near Moncton in New Brunswick after making a second landfall in Canada on Saturday afternoon, Environment Canada's Canadian Hurricane Center said.
More than 141,000 customers in Nova Scotia and 110,000 in New Brunswick were left without power due to strong winds and heavy rain that were expected to continue over parts of southeastern Canada through Saturday night.
The still intense storm was expected to move eastward to Northumberland Strait and toward the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday evening, the Hurricane Center said. Maximum sustained winds were about 62 mph (100 kph).
"Basically, it lost its tropical characteristics and has become more a wintertime-type low," said Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Arthur was the first hurricane to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey in October 2012, causing an estimated $70 billion in damage.
In Maine, some communities reported power outages and trees down, but there were no injuries from Arthur, according to the National Weather Service, which received unofficial reports of more than 6 inches of rain (15 cm) in the eastern tip of the state.
"It's going to continue to wind down as we go through the afternoon hours," said Dustin Jordan, a weather service meteorologist in Caribou, Maine.
Arthur hit landfall with top sustained winds of 100 mph (160 kph), earning a Category 2 status on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. It weakened to a Category 1 as it moved northeast into colder waters of the Atlantic Ocean with 90-mph (145-kph) top sustained winds.
The storm lashed the popular Massachusetts resort island of Nantucket with powerful winds and heavy rain on Friday night.
In North Carolina, Arthur cut power to almost 20,000 homes and businesses, downed trees and cut off barrier islands from the mainland after making landfall on the state's Outer Banks.
The tourist haven of Ocracoke Island was without main power on Saturday, but a generator was providing power on a rotating basis and officials said power could be restored by late Sunday.
A highway connecting Hatteras Island to the mainland had been blocked, but has reopened. Permanent residents are being allowed back on Hatteras Island, but no visitors yet were being allowed on Hatteras or on Ocracoke Island.
(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Eric Martyn in Bedford, Nova Scotia, and Gene Cherry in North Carolina; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Stephen Powell and Leslie Adler)