How strong will Hurricane Lee hit New England? The cold North Atlantic may decide that

New England is known for its changeable weather, strong snowstorms, and blizzards. However, destructive hurricanes are relatively rare and usually do not have the same strength as tropical cyclones that strike the Southeast.

Hurricanes usually lose some strength and become tropical storms, or extratropical storms, in northern waters.

Geography matters

New England, awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Lee, is typically protected from the worst of a hurricane’s wrath by the cold waters of the North Atlantic, and that is expected to help turn Lee into a tropical storm by the time it arrives Saturday.

There are a number of factors that determine the path and strength of a hurricane. But the warm waters that can increase hurricane strength are usually located south of Cape Cod. North of there, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are much colder.

This doesn’t mean storms aren’t dangerous in New England.

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. The damage is not always limited to the coast. In 2011, a weakened Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm but produced historic flooding in Vermont, causing more than $800 million in damage.

Down eastern Maine

While Hurricane Lee will cause problems throughout New England, it is headed toward Downeast Maine — as the state’s easternmost areas are known — and Atlantic Canada.

The last time Maine was under a hurricane watch was in 2008 due to Hurricane Kyle, a tropical storm as it passed the state.

The last hurricane to make landfall in Maine was Hurricane Gerda, which struck Eastport in 1969. Hurricane Bob also had a significant impact in 1991, but was downgraded to a tropical storm once it reached Maine.

Again, this cold water is expected to reduce the likelihood of problems for Lee. But the state still expects 20-foot (6-meter) waves and winds of up to 70 mph (112 kph), along with more rain in a waterlogged area.

Southern storms

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