Hurricane Lee targets New England and eastern Canada with wind, roiling seas and rain

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Fishermen removed lobster traps from the water and residents hauled hundreds of boats ashore — leaving some harbors looking like ghost towns — while utility workers from as far away as Tennessee began taking up positions Friday ahead of Hurricane Lee’s heavy winds, high seas and rain that’s expected to span hundreds of miles (kilometers) of land and sea.

When the storm makes landfall, it is expected to have a width of over 400 miles (640 kilometers) and will bring tropical-storm-force winds. This raises concerns about power outages in Maine, which is known for its dense forests and has already experienced heavy rainfall during the summer, resulting in saturated ground and weakened trees.

Lee remained a hurricane with 80 mph (128 kph) winds Friday as it headed toward New England and eastern Canada with 20-foot (6-meter) ocean swells, strong winds and rain. Forecasters said there would be winds topping 40 mph (64 kph) across the region, with peak winds reaching upward of 65 mph (104 kph), ahead of landfall expected Saturday afternoon .

There was not much else to do except wait and be concerned, while also making last-minute arrangements, as Lee rotated approximately 290 miles (465 kilometers) to the southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

In Bar Harbor, the number of lobster boats in the water was significantly lower than usual, with only two boats instead of the usual 20 to 25. Bruce Young, a lobsterman, decided to transport his 38-foot vessel to the local airport as a precautionary measure, prioritizing safety. He mentioned that the upcoming weather conditions, with strong winds reaching speeds of 50 to 60 mph, would bring large waves, making it quite a spectacle to witness.

On Long Island, commercial lobster fisherman Steve Train had just finished hauling 200 traps out of the water. Train, who is also a firefighter, was going to wait out the storm on the island in Casco Bay.

He expressed no worry about remaining there during the storm. “Not at all,” he stated.

Dave Cousens, a resident of South Thomaston, experienced the loss of his fishing equipment during the occurrence of Hurricane Bob in 1991. He mentioned that lobstermen in the area were actively engaged in relocating their traps, which have a value ranging from $100 to $170 each, in order to protect them from potential harm caused by the turbulent ocean conditions.

Although landfall was expected in Nova Scotia, the Category 1 system was large enough to raise concerns over a wide region, even if it diminishes to a tropical storm. Coastal areas in Maine may experience waves as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters), resulting in erosion and damage. Additionally, strong gusts of wind are likely to cause power outages, according to Louise Fode, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Maine. Eastern Maine could receive up to 5 inches (12 centimeters) of rainfall, leading to a flash flood watch being issued.

Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Centre, stated that Lee will not be as severe as the remains of Hurricane Fiona. Hurricane Fiona caused significant damage, including houses being washed away, widespread power outages in two provinces, and even a woman being swept into the sea, a year ago.

But it was still a dangerous storm. Kyle Leavitt, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Management Organization, urged residents to stay home, saying, “Nothing good can come from checking out the big waves and how strong the wind truly is.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was gathering the incident response group, a team that meets exclusively to address significant matters affecting Canada. Comprised of Cabinet ministers and high-ranking officials, this group has been previously assembled to tackle events such as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the current unprecedented wildfire season.

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, like Maine, has declared a state of emergency and requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency to issue a pre-disaster emergency declaration. Additionally, she has mobilized a maximum of 50 National Guard members to assist in storm preparations, such as utilizing highwater vehicles to address flooded regions.

The storm was predicted to come shortly after severe flooding and tornadoes occurred in New England.

Healey stated that severe weather should not be underestimated, as it can lead to various dangers and difficulties such as flooding, wind damage, and fallen trees or branches.

East Hampton, New York, barred swimming — and, in at least some places, even walking — on beaches because of dangerous surf. Caution tape was strung up along the edge of the sand at the tony second-home community’s picturesque Main Beach, where waves already were roiling Friday afternoon, News12 Long Island video showed.

Governor Dan McKee of Rhode Island stated that efforts were being made to protect the renowned “Independent Man” statue, which stands at a height of 11 feet (3.4 meters) on top of the State House dome. The workers aimed to ensure the safety of the 500-pound statue from the strong winds and rain brought by the storm, as a drone had recently recorded footage revealing damage to its base.

In Maine, where residents are familiar with destructive winter nor’easters, some dismissed the approaching Lee as similar to those storms, but without the snow.

“I cannot reword”

Numerous tourists were trapped in the midst of the storm.

Kent Thomas and his spouse Robin, residents of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, carefully monitored the weather forecasts prior to their decision to journey to Mount Desert Island, which is the location of Acadia National Park. Given their familiarity with severe storms in their hometown, they are prepared to adapt accordingly.

“I cannot reword”

Hurricanes with significant destructive force are not commonly observed in this northern region. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938, for instance, recorded gusts reaching 186 mph (300 kph) and sustained winds of 121 mph (195 kph) at Massachusetts’ Blue Hill Observatory. However, there have been no storms of such intensity in recent times.

According to the National Weather Service, the most recent hurricane to hit New England and reach land was Bob. It caused significant damage as it crossed Cape Cod and moved towards Maine, eventually weakening and transforming into a tropical storm.

The area discovered through Hurricane Irene in 2011 that destruction is not always limited to the shoreline. Despite being downgraded to a tropical storm, Irene resulted in over $800 million worth of damage in Vermont.

For this storm, part of Maine was briefly under a hurricane watch for the first time since 2008, for Hurricane Kyle, which skirted eastern Maine. The last hurricane to make landfall in Maine was Hurricane Gerda, which hit Eastport in 1969.

Sharp and Whittle provided coverage from Portland, with additional contributions from Rob Gillies, a writer for the Associated Press based in Toronto.

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