A tornado watch has been issued for Maine as rain-soaked New England prepares to welcome Lee

LEOMINSTER, Mass. (AP) — Hurricane Lee barreled north toward New England on Wednesday and threatened to unleash violent storms on the region just as communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island dealt with tornado warnings and a second straight day of heavy rain that opened up and caused flooding. Devastating in many societies.

Late Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center issued a tornado warning for parts of Maine. A tropical storm watch has also been issued for a large area of ​​the New England coast from parts of Rhode Island to Stonington, Maine, including Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Live map: Track the path of Hurricane Lee

The National Weather Service said Wednesday it was looking into reports of strong winds that toppled trees and downed power lines in Rhode Island and Connecticut but was unable to determine whether they were the result of tornadoes. The tornado warning has been extended until 5:45 PM for several counties in Massachusetts.

Rob Minnea, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said they received reports of about 20 trees down in Killingly, Connecticut, and trees and power lines in Foster, Rhode Island.

“Normally, we would have to go out and do a survey to determine if it’s a tornado unless there’s visual confirmation, but we don’t have that yet,” Megna said.

Sirens could be heard late Wednesday afternoon in parts of Providence, Rhode Island, as cellphones sounded a tornado warning. By early evening, the weather service said a severe thunderstorm capable of producing tornadoes was rapidly moving east toward the Massachusetts border, from Cumberland, Rhode Island.

Late Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey issued a state of emergency following “catastrophic flooding and property damage” in two counties and other communities. Matthew Belk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston, said the 10 inches (25 cm) of rain over six hours earlier in the week was a “200-year event.”

Although there are no plans to call in the National Guard, the state Emergency Management Agency is closely monitoring the weather and is ready to help, Healey said Wednesday.

She said the state is monitoring the condition of levees in many communities and urged residents to take any warnings about potential flooding seriously and stay off the roads when orders are issued.

“Something that seems so simple can turn, in just a couple of hours, into something very dangerous, potentially deadly and very destructive,” Healey said.

Rain caused several sinkholes in Leominster, Massachusetts, including one at a dealership where several cars were swallowed up. In Providence, Rhode Island, heavy rains flooded a parking lot and parts of a shopping center. Firefighters used rubber boats to rescue more than twenty people stranded in cars.

Parking lots at several businesses briefly became lakes in Leominster and North Attleboro, and many front yards are still partially covered by water. For the second day, families were busy assessing the damage and removing flood-damaged rubble. The sounds of electric generators filled the air in many neighborhoods, while residents worked to draw water from the basements of their homes.

John DiCicco, a retired teacher in Leominster, said residents who had started the day fearful and worried about the forecast for more rain became more optimistic later in the day. Residents of the close-knit community help each other clean up and open their homes to others whose housing has become uninhabitable, he said.

“We’re going to get through this together,” said DeCicco, who loaned a pair of generators to neighbors during the flood to keep their water pumps running.

DeCicco said he lived through a blizzard in 1978 that dumped 30 inches of snow and an ice storm in 2008, but he said the severity of the electrical storm and torrential rain came as a shock.

“You can call snowplows to push snow, but you can’t call snowplows to push water,” he said.

Dawn Packer, who runs a home preschool in North Attleboro, looked across the street Monday evening to see a UPS truck floating in several feet of water. Her yard was soon flooded.

“Suddenly, the door opened. The water was so strong. It broke the door and flowed 4 feet deep,” she said. “The refrigerator went up in the air and fell on its side. It was horrific.”

After a dry day, rain began to fall in Leominster again Wednesday afternoon. Parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island were under a flash flood warning. Earlier in the day, heavy rain fell in Danbury, Connecticut, where officials said they had to rescue several people from vehicles stuck in floodwaters.

Rainfall from Hurricane Lee did not contribute to flooding earlier this week. But meteorologists said the hurricane could inundate parts of the country’s coastal northeast over the weekend. Lee is moving north and could make landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada, possibly as a tropical storm, forecasters said.

“The ground is saturated. It can’t hold up anymore,” Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said at a news conference Wednesday in the city about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of Boston. But he said the city has emergency resources ready for “any weather.”

Mazzarella said up to 300 people had been evacuated by Tuesday morning from the city, which had not seen such widespread devastation since the 1936 hurricane. Most buildings downtown were flooded and some collapsed. Rail service was also disrupted.

Mazzarella said the city is trying to help provide assistance to homeowners and businesses that sustained damage. He said that initial estimates for the city’s infrastructure restoration projects could range from $25 million to $40 million.

Arthur Elbithall, Leominster’s director of emergency management, said two of the city’s 24 dams were damaged. They have persevered, and the city is strengthening them.

New England has seen its share of flooding this summer, including a storm that dumped two months’ worth of rain in two days in Vermont in July, resulting in two deaths. Scientists have discovered that storms around the world are forming in warmer climates, making heavy rainfall a more frequent reality now. A warming world will only make the situation worse.

McCormack reported from Concord, New Hampshire. Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in New Hampshire, Steve LeBlanc and Roderick Njoy in Massachusetts, David Sharp in Maine, Lisa Rathke in Vermont and David Lieb in Missouri contributed to this report.

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