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Hurricane Lee now threatens New England

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — After a deluge of rain, flooding, sinkholes and tornadoes this week, New England is poised to face Hurricane Lee.

As the Category 1 system hit Bermuda, Maine was under its first hurricane watch in 15 years and a state of emergency was declared Thursday by Gov. Janet Mills. The waterlogged region braced for 20-foot waves offshore and wind gusts of up to 80 mph, as well as more rain.

The hurricane watch applied to eastern Maine, while the rest of the state and an area extending south through Massachusetts were under a tropical storm warning. Powerful winds and coastal flooding are expected to arrive Friday afternoon in southern New England and spread northward.

Although Lee did not contribute to the flooding that hit New England earlier in the week, it threatened to exacerbate conditions in an already waterlogged region.

This Thursday, September 14, 2023, at 7:51 a.m. EDT, a satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Lee in the Atlantic Ocean. Lee appears poised to hit New England later this week, although the region is still dealing with the impact of days of wild weather that produced torrential rain, flooding, sinkholes and a possible tornado. (NOAA via AP)

The Coast Guard and emergency management agencies warned New Englanders to prepare, and utility companies sent reinforcements to deal with possible power outages. At the 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 batten-down day,” owner Kim Gillies said Thursday.

Similar scenes played out elsewhere, including at the Kennebunkport Marina, where crews planned to pull 100 boats from the water, said Cathy Norton, marina manager.

Commercial lobster fisherman Steve Train said fishermen were sinking their gear in deeper water to protect themselves from storm damage. Fishing boats were also heading towards the safety of ports.

In Canada, residents of western Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick have been warned of the risk of power outages and flooding this weekend. A year ago, the remnants of Hurricane Fiona swept homes into the ocean, knocked out power to most of two provinces and swept a woman into the sea.

New Brunswick Public Safety Minister Kris Austin urged residents to gather a 72-hour safety kit including batteries, water, food, medication and a radio.

In his emergency declaration, Maine’s governor urged people to take the storm seriously and prepare. Mills, a Democrat, also asked President Joe Biden to issue a presidential disaster declaration to give the state access to federal resources.

Earlier in the week, the region saw 25 centimeters of rain in six hours. Tornado warnings were issued Wednesday in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and heavier rains created sinkholes and caused devastating flooding in several areas.

The National Weather Service in Boston confirmed Thursday that the previous day’s damage to trees and power lines in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut was caused by four tornadoes.

Dozens of trees were broken or uprooted by a tornado in the town of Gloucester, Rhode Island, and a structure used as a bus shelter was blown away, the weather service said. The three tornadoes in Connecticut and Rhode Island were classified as EF-1, while the one in North Attleboro, Massachusetts was an EF-0.

As of Thursday evening, Lee was circling 300 kilometers west of Bermuda, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h), according to the National Hurricane Center. It was moving north on a path that could lead to landfall in Nova Scotia, possibly as a tropical storm, forecasters said.

The system could bring a mix of threats. Storm surge and waves could lash the coast, damaging structures and causing erosion; strong gusts of wind could bring down trees weakened by a humid summer; and rain could cause flash flooding in a region where the ground is already saturated, said Louise Fode, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Maine.

The state’s eastern coast – known as the Down East region – as well as coastal Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are expected to bear the brunt of the storm, although the track could change before landfall of the system, Fode said.

One thing working in the region’s favor is that the storm surge won’t be accompanied by an astronomical high tide, which will help reduce the risk, she said.

New England has seen its share of flooding this summer, including a storm that dumped up to two months’ worth of rain in two days in Vermont in July, killing two people. Scientists are discovering that storms around the world form in a warmer atmosphere, making extreme precipitation events more common.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency Tuesday following “catastrophic flash flooding and property damage” in two counties and other communities. The torrential rain that occurred over a six-hour period was a “200-year event,” said Matthew Belk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston.

Rain created sinkholes in Leominster, Massachusetts, including one at a car dealership that swallowed several vehicles. In Providence, Rhode Island, firefighters used inflatable boats to rescue more than two dozen people stranded in cars in a flooded parking lot.

In Maine, the last time a hurricane watch was declared was in 2008 for Hurricane Kyle, but residents are used to bad weather. The wind, rain and waves thrown by Lee are akin to a powerful Nor’easter, and Mainers know them well.

Tropical Storm Margot

Tropical Storm Margot strengthened into a tropical storm Friday morning.

The NHC said Margot’s maximum sustained winds are near 70 mph. The storm is expected to make a slow clockwise loop over the next few days. By Monday, Margot will move more quickly toward the northeast.

2 disturbances

The NHC continues to monitor showers and thunderstorms located midway between the Cape Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles.

The system is expected to become a tropical depression in the next few days or so as it moves west-northwestward at a speed of 10 to 15 mph across the central tropical Atlantic.

It has a 90 percent chance of developing over the next two days.

Forecasters are also watching a tropical wave expected to emerge off the west coast of Africa in the middle of next week.

The tropical wave could eventually grow as it moves westward across the eastern tropical Atlantic. It has a 20 percent chance of developing over the next seven days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NBC Chicago

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