Lee Slams Into New England: 'We Have a Long Way to Go

Post-tropical cyclone has begun, bringing hurricane-force winds, dangerous surf, heavy rain
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 16, 2023 9:00 AM CDT
Tens of Thousands Lose Power as Lee Strikes New England
Visitors photograph the evening sky in advance of the storm on Friday in Bar Harbor, Maine. Red skies at night usually portend fair weather, but Saturday's weather is predicted to be stormy.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Storm Lee toppled trees and cut power to tens of thousands Saturday as it began lashing New England and eastern Canada, threatening hurricane-force winds, dangerous surf, and torrential rains as its center spun closer. Severe conditions were predicted across parts of Massachusetts and Maine, and hurricane conditions could hit the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where the storm, downgraded early Saturday from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone, was expected to make landfall later in the day, per the AP. The storm's center was about 185 miles southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and about 160 miles south-southeast of Eastport, Maine, at 8am ET Saturday. It was moving north at a fast clip of 25mph, with maximum sustained winds of 80mph.

States of emergency were declared for Massachusetts and Maine, the nation's most heavily forested state, where the ground was saturated and trees were weakened by heavy summer rains. There were reports of trees down in eastern Maine, per National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Foisy. "We have a long way to go, and we're already seeing downed trees and power outages," Foisy said Saturday. Hurricane watches were in effect for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, while a tropical storm warning stretched from Westport, Massachusetts, along Cape Cod and coastal Maine all the way up to Nova Scotia. Utilities reported tens of thousands of customers without power from Maine to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia's largest airport, Halifax Stanfield International, had no incoming or outgoing flights scheduled Saturday.

Peak gusts are projected to be 70mph on the coast in eastern Maine, but there will be gusts up to 50mph across a swath more than 400 miles wide, from Maine's Moosehead Lake eastward all the way into the ocean, he said. Cruise ships found refuge at berths in Portland, while lobstermen in Bar Harbor and elsewhere pulled their costly traps from the water and hauled their boats inland, leaving some harbors looking like ghost towns on Friday. Two lobstermen—one of them Billy Bob Faulkingham, House Republican leader of the Maine Legislature—survived after their boat overturned while hauling traps Friday ahead of the storm, officials said. The boat's emergency locator beacon alerted authorities, and the two fishermen clung to the hull of the overturned boat until help arrived, said Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell. "They're very lucky to be alive," he said.

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Parts of coastal Maine could see waves up to 15 feet high crashing down, causing erosion and damage, and the strong gusts will cause power outages, said NWS meteorologist Louise Fode. As much as 5 inches of rain was forecast for eastern Maine, where a flash flood watch was in effect. Even as they prepared, New Englanders seemed largely unconcerned. In Maine, where people are accustomed to damaging winter nor'easters, some brushed aside the coming Lee as something akin to those storms, only without the snow. "There's going to be huge white rollers coming in on top of 50mph to 60mph winds," one Bar Harbor lobsterman noted. "It'll be quite entertaining." However, Kyle Leavitt, head of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, urged residents to stay home: "Nothing good can come from checking out the big waves and how strong the wind truly is."

(More Tropical Storm Lee stories.)

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