Robert F. Bukaty/AP
BAR HARBOR, Maine — Atlantic Storm Lee — which made landfall with near hurricane force, bringing destructive winds and torrential rain to New England and Canada’s Maritimes — continued to rage weaken on Sunday after authorities withdrew their warnings and predicted the storm would disappear early this week.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sunday morning that the post-tropical cyclone was about 135 miles west of Channel-Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. Maximum sustained wind speed was 45 mph with higher gusts expected.
“Progressive weakening is expected over the next few days, and Lee may dissipate on Tuesday,” the US hurricane center said.
Skies were sunny in Maine on Sunday morning. Governor Janet Mills has suspended the state of emergency. Less than 5% of electric customers were still without power, compared to 11% midday Saturday, at the height of the storm. In Canada, 14% of people in Nova Scotia were without electricity, compared to 27% on Saturday, with lower numbers in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The center ended a tropical storm warning for coastal Maine on Saturday. It was reported Sunday morning that all tropical storm warnings for Canada had been discontinued.
Storm surges are expected to ease Sunday after being forecast at up to 3 feet Saturday along coastal areas, the hurricane center said.
Deaths reported in Maine
A 51-year-old driver in Searsport, Maine, died Saturday after a large tree branch fell on his vehicle on U.S. Highway 1 during high winds. The member knocked down live power lines and utility workers had to turn off the power before evacuating the man, who later died at a hospital, Police Chief Brian Lunt said.
A driver was slightly injured Saturday after a tree felled by Lee went through his windshield on Route 11 in Moro Plantation, Maine, according to Maine State Police. John Yoder, 23, of Apple Creek, Ohio, tried to stop but was unable to avoid the tree. Yoder suffered minor cuts but the other five passengers in the van were uninjured. Police blamed the downed tree on strong winds.
The storm was recorded as moving at around 22 mph and is expected to track northeast, carrying the weather system across the Canadian Maritimes. Precipitation is expected to reach an additional 1 inch or less in parts of eastern Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the U.S. Storm Center said.
In Bar Harbor, Maine, the tourist gateway to Acadia National Park, a whale-watching vessel broke loose from its mooring and crashed Saturday. Officials worked to unload 1,800 gallons of diesel fuel to prevent it from spilling into the ocean.
Lee flooded Nova Scotia’s coastal roads and knocked ferries out of service while stoking anxiety in a region still reeling from this summer’s wildfires and severe flooding. The province’s largest airport, Halifax Stanfield International Airport, has canceled all flights.
“People are exhausted,” said Halifax city councilor Pam Lovelace. “It’s so much in such a short time.”
Hurricane-force winds extended up to 140 miles from Lee’s center, with tropical storm-force winds extending up to 320 miles, enough to cover all of Maine and much of Canada’s Maritimes.
The storm bypassed some of the most waterlogged areas of Massachusetts that experienced severe flash flooding days earlier, when fast-moving waters swept away roads, caused sinkholes, damaged homes and inundated vehicles.
In eastern Maine, winds calmed enough late Saturday afternoon that utility workers could begin using bucket trucks to make repairs.
The entire region experienced a particularly wet summer, ranking second in number of rainy days in Portland, Maine — and Lee’s high winds toppled stressed trees from Maine’s rain-soaked ground , the most forested state in the country.
Cruise ships found shelter in berths in Portland, Maine, while lobstermen from Bar Harbor and elsewhere hauled their traps from the water and hauled their boats inland.
Billy Bob Faulkingham, Republican leader of the Maine Legislature, and another lobsterman survived after their boat overturned while carrying traps ahead of Friday’s storm, officials said.
The boat’s emergency locator beacon alerted authorities and the two men clung to the hull until help arrived, Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell said. The 42-foot boat sank.
“They are very lucky to be alive,” Mitchell said.
Lee shares some characteristics with Superstorm Sandy of 2012. Both storms were once powerful hurricanes that became post-tropical cyclones – cyclonic storms that lost most of their tropical characteristics – before making landfall. But Sandy caused billions of dollars in damage and was blamed for dozens of deaths in New York and New Jersey.
Nor was Lee as bad as the remnants of Hurricane Fiona, which a year ago swept homes into the ocean in eastern Canada, knocked out power to most of two provinces and carried a woman into the sea.
Destructive hurricanes are relatively rare in the far north. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought gusts up to 186 mph and sustained winds of 121 mph to Massachusetts’ Blue Hill Observatory. There hasn’t been a storm this powerful in recent years.
In addition, tropical storm Nigel has strengthened and is expected to turn into a hurricane by Monday, the US hurricane center said. This did not appear to pose any threat to the United States or Canada. It was about 990 miles northeast of the Lesser Antilles and about 1,115 miles east-southeast of Bermuda. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and moving north-northwest at 13 mph.