Atlantic Storm Lee is bringing high winds and rain before meteorologists lift warnings in some areas
BAR HARBOR, Maine (AP) — Atlantic Storm Lee made landfall at near hurricane strength Saturday, bringing damaging winds, rough waves and heavy rain to offshore New England and Canada. But officials withdrew some warnings for the area late Saturday night.
The US National Hurricane Center discontinued its tropical storm warning for the coast of Maine, while Environment Canada ended its tropical storm warning for New Brunswick.
A person was killed in Maine on Saturday when a tree branch fell on his car. The post-tropical cyclone also cut power to tens of thousands of customers.
The hurricane center reported late Saturday that the storm was about 105 miles (170 kilometers) west of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and about 80 miles (125 kilometers) east of Eastport, Maine. Maximum sustained wind speeds decreased to 60 mph (95 km/h).
The storm was tracked as moving at about 14 mph (22 km/h) and is expected to move toward the northeast in the coming days, moving the weather system across Canada’s maritime provinces. An additional inch (25 mm) or less of rain is expected in parts of eastern Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the U.S. Storm Center said.
A tropical storm warning remained in effect for parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Magdalen Islands.
Earlier Saturday in Bar Harbor, Maine, the tourist gateway to Acadia National Park, a whale-watching vessel broke free from its mooring and crashed onto the beach. The authorities worked to unload 1,800 gallons (6,813 liters) of diesel fuel to prevent it from leaking into the ocean.
Lee flooded Nova Scotia’s coastal roads and put ferries out of service while raising alarm in a region still reeling from wildfires and severe flooding this summer. The province’s largest airport, Halifax Stanfield International, canceled all flights.
“People are exhausted. It’s such a big deal in such a short period of time,” said Halifax City Councilor Pam Lovelace.
Hurricane winds extended up to 140 miles (220 km) from the center of Lee, and tropical storm force winds extended up to 320 miles (515 km), enough to cover the entire state of Maine and much of Maritime Canada.
The storm was large and powerful enough to cause power outages hundreds of miles from its center. At midday Saturday, 11% of Maine’s electricity customers lacked power, along with 27% in Nova Scotia, 8% in New Brunswick, and 3% in Prince Edward Island.
Storm surges of up to 3 feet (0.91 metres) are expected along coastal areas, accompanied by large, damaging waves, the hurricane center said. Up to 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of rain is expected to fall on parts of eastern Maine and New Brunswick through Saturday evening, with localized flooding possible.
A 51-year-old motorist died in Searsport, Maine, after a large tree branch fell on his car Saturday on U.S. Highway 1 during high winds, the first death attributed to the storm.
The tree branch brought down live power lines and utility workers had to cut off power before the man could be removed, Police Chief Brian Lunt said. The unidentified man later died at the hospital, Lunt said.
The storm bypassed some of the most waterlogged areas of Massachusetts that had seen severe flash flooding days earlier, when fast-moving waters washed away roads, created potholes, damaged homes and submerged vehicles.
In eastern Maine, the winds calmed enough by late Saturday afternoon for utility workers to begin using bucket trucks to make repairs. Central Maine Power and Versant Power had hundreds of workers, including out-of-state crews, to help with the effort.
“At this point, the storm looks like a nor’easter,” said Sarah Thunberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, referring to the fall and winter storms that often hit the region and are so named because their winds blow from the northeast. They usually have a much wider wind field than tropical systems with winds staying closer to the center of the storm.
The entire region experienced a particularly rainy summer, ranking second in rainy days in Portland, Maine — and Lee’s high winds toppled trees hardened by rain-soaked ground in Maine, the most densely forested state in the country.
Cruise ships found refuge at docks in Portland, Maine, while lobster men in Bar Harbor and elsewhere pulled traps from the water and moved boats inland.
Billy Bob Faulkingham, Republican leader of the Maine Legislature, and another lobsterman survived after their boat capsized while transporting traps before the storm on Friday, officials said.
The boat’s emergency GPS alerted authorities, and the two clung to the boat’s hull until help arrived, Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell said. The 42-foot (12.8 m) boat sank.
“They are very lucky to be alive,” Mitchell said.
Meteorologists urged residents to stay home, but many ventured out anyway.
Betsy Follansbee and her husband, Fred, ran to Higgins Beach in Scarborough, Maine, to watch surfers — some wearing helmets — paddle out to catch waves as high as 12 feet (3.6 meters). She said it was the biggest waves Follansbee had seen in the 10 years she lived there.
“We’re impressed that they’re bold enough to try,” Follansbee said.
On Bailey Island in Maine, a thin island jutting into the Gulf of Maine, Ren Renton watched the ocean shake. “She comes and goes and takes what she wants, but hopefully it’s not too much,” she said.
Lee shared some characteristics with Superstorm Sandy of 2012. Both storms were previously powerful hurricanes, but then converted into post-tropical cyclones — cyclonic storms that have lost most of their tropical characteristics — before making landfall. Hurricane Lee was not expected to be as devastating as Hurricane Sandy, which caused billions of dollars in damage and was blamed for dozens of deaths in New York and New Jersey.
Jill Maibia, a Canadian meteorologist, said Lee was nowhere near as dangerous as the remnants of Hurricane Fiona, which a year ago swept homes into the ocean in eastern Canada, knocking out power to most of both provinces and sweeping a woman out to sea.
Destructive tornadoes are relatively rare so far in the north. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought wind gusts of up to 186 mph (300 kph) and sustained winds of 121 mph (195 kph) at Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts. There have been no storms this strong in recent years.
Sharp reported from Portland, Maine. Associated Press journalists Robert Bumstead in Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; Michael Casey in Boston; Ryo Yamate in Las Vegas; Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska; Rob Gillis in Toronto; and Cathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.