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 exceeding 400 miles (640 kilometers) and will bring tropical-storm-force winds. This raises concerns about power outages in Maine, which is the most densely forested state in the country. The ground in Maine is already saturated due to heavy summer rains, and the trees have been weakened as a result.

Lee maintained its hurricane status on Friday, with winds of 80 mph (128 kph), as it moved towards New England and eastern Canada. The storm brought along 20-foot (6-meter) ocean swells, strong winds, and rain. Meteorologists predicted that the region would experience winds exceeding 40 mph (64 kph), with the highest gusts reaching up to 65 mph (104 kph), before the storm made landfall on Saturday afternoon.

There was not much else to do except wait and feel anxious, 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. He emphasized the importance of prioritizing safety over taking risks. Young also mentioned that the weather conditions were expected to bring large waves and strong winds, which he found quite fascinating.

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 fishing equipment during Hurricane Bob in 1991. He mentioned that lobstermen in the area were actively relocating their traps, which have a value ranging from $100 to $170 each, in order to prevent any potential damage 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 becomes a tropical storm. Coastal areas of 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 rain, 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 in Canada. Hurricane Fiona caused significant damage, including houses being washed away into the ocean, widespread power outages in two provinces, and even a woman being swept into the sea, all of which occurred 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 called for a meeting of the incident response group. This group is only convened to discuss significant events that have a major impact on Canada. It includes Cabinet ministers and senior officials. In the past, the group has been called together for events such as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the current record-breaking wildfire season.

Governor Maura Healey of Massachusetts, 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.

In Rhode Island, Governor Dan McKee mentioned that workers were making efforts to protect the famous “Independent Man” statue on top of the State House dome. The workers aimed to secure the 11-foot-tall statue, weighing 500 pounds, from the strong winds and rain caused by the storm. This action was prompted by drone footage that revealed damage to the statue’s base.

In Maine, where residents are familiar with severe winter nor’easters, some dismissed the approaching Lee as a similar type of storm, just without the snow.

“I cannot reword.”

Several tourists were affected by the storm.

Kent Thomas and his spouse Robin, residents of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, carefully monitored the weather forecasts prior to making the decision to journey to Mount Desert Island, where Acadia National Park is located. Being accustomed to severe storms in their hometown, they are prepared to adapt to any circumstances.

“I cannot reword”

Hurricanes with significant destructive power are not commonly observed in this northern region. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 stands out as an example, with gusts reaching up to 186 mph (300 kph) and sustained winds of 121 mph (195 kph) recorded at Massachusetts’ Blue Hill Observatory. However, no storms of comparable strength have occurred 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 continued moving north towards Maine. However, it gradually weakened and transformed into a tropical storm.

The area experienced a valuable lesson during 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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