Typhoon Lee comes after days of heavy rain and flash floods
Days of wild weather that produced heavy rain, flooding, troughs and a tornado in New England could be a precursor to something more dangerous lurking offshore — Hurricane Lee.
As a Category 1 hurricane spread southwest of Bermuda, Maine Governor Janet Mills declared a state of emergency on Thursday, and the state was under a hurricane watch for the first time in 15 years. The flooded area was bracing for 20-foot waves and wind gusts of up to 70 mph, along with more rain.
A dangerous storm surge is expected Friday evening in Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, while the brunt of the storm is expected to arrive early Saturday.
Although Lee did not contribute to the recent flooding, he threatened to worsen conditions in an already very humid area.
The Coast Guard and emergency management agencies warned New Englanders to be prepared, and utility companies sent reinforcements to deal with power outages. At Boothbay Harbor Marina in Maine, the community came together to remove boats from the water to keep them out of harm’s way.
“It’s a busy day,” owner Kim Gillis said Thursday.
Similar scenes occurred at Kennebunkport Marina, where crews planned to pry 100 boats out of the water, marina manager Cathy Norton said.
Commercial lobster fisherman Steve Train said fishermen are submerging their gear in deeper water to protect against storm damage. Fishing boats also headed to safe ports.
In Canada, where the remnants of Hurricane Fiona a year ago swept homes into the ocean, knocked out power to most of two provinces and swept a 72-year-old woman out to sea, residents of western Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick were warned to prepare for power outages and flooding this weekend.
New Brunswick Public Safety Minister Chris Austin urged residents to assemble a 72-hour safety kit that includes batteries, water, food, medication and a radio.
In her emergency declaration Thursday, the governor urged people to take the storm seriously and make preparations. Mills, a Democrat, also asked President Joe Biden to issue a preemptive presidential disaster declaration to give the state access to federal resources.
Earlier in the week, the area saw 10 inches of rain over a six-hour period. Tornado warnings were in place Wednesday for communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and more heavy rain opened up drains and caused devastating flooding in several areas.
The National Weather Service in Boston confirmed Thursday that damage to trees and power lines in Rhode Island and Connecticut the day before was consistent with a hurricane. In Lincoln, Rhode Island, photos taken after the storm showed at least one roof damaged, and a high school stadium press box falling into the stands.
At midday Thursday, Lee was orbiting 245 miles southwest of Bermuda, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Meteorologists said the hurricane was moving north on a path that could lead to it making landfall in Nova Scotia, possibly as a tropical storm.
The regime threatened to bring a mixed bag of threats. Ocean waves up to 20 feet high can pound the coast, damaging structures and causing erosion; Strong wind gusts can topple trees weakened by a wet summer; The rain could cause flash flooding in an area where the soil is already saturated, said Louise Foody, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Maine.
The state’s east coast — known as the Downeast region — and Nova Scotia’s coast are expected to bear the brunt of the storm, although the track may change before the system arrives, Foudy said.
She added that one thing working in the region’s favor is that the storms will not be accompanied by high tides, which helps reduce risks.
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 found that storms around the world form in warmer climates, making heavy rainfall more frequent.
Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey issued a state of emergency late Tuesday after “catastrophic flooding and property damage” in two counties and other communities. The heavy rainfall in six hours was a “200-year event,” said Matthew Belk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston.
The governor said that the state is monitoring the conditions of the dams, and urged residents to stay off the roads when ordered to do so.
Rain created several holes in Leominster, Massachusetts, including one at a car dealership where several vehicles were swallowed up. In Providence, Rhode Island, heavy rains flooded a parking lot and parts of a shopping mall. Firefighters used rubber boats to rescue more than twenty people stranded in cars.
Looking ahead, the tornado watch in Maine extended from Stonington to the Canadian border. The last time a hurricane status was declared in Maine was in 2008, for Hurricane Kyle.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch was in effect from Stonington south to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. This includes Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
In Maine, residents often boast that they are used to extreme weather. The wind, rain and waves expected in Lee are like a strong nor’easter, and people are aware of it.
The Portland Sea Dogs, a minor league baseball team, moved their fan appreciation day to Friday due to the weather forecast. But the club has no plans to cancel its match on Saturday despite the storm.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillis in Toronto contributed to this story.
(Tags for translation)David Sharp