PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Storm Lee roared across the Atlantic Saturday, threatening millions of people on the New England coast and eastern Canada with hurricane-force winds, dangerous waves and torrential rains.
Severe conditions were forecast in parts of Massachusetts and Maine, and hurricane conditions could hit the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where the storm, downgraded early Saturday from a hurricane to a post-cyclone tropical, expected to make landfall later today. .
The center of the storm was about 185 miles (365 kilometers) southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and about 160 miles (355 kilometers) south-southeast of Eastport, Maine , at 8 a.m. EDT Saturday. It was moving north at a rapid speed of 25 mph (41 km/h), with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (129 km/h).
Hurricane watches were in effect for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, while a tropical storm warning extended from Westport, Massachusetts, to Nova Scotia.
A state of emergency was declared in Massachusetts and Maine, the nation’s most forested state, where the ground was saturated and trees weakened by heavy summer rains.
Utilities reported tens of thousands of customers without power, from Maine to Nova Scotia.
Trees were reported in eastern Maine, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Foisy.
“We have a long way to go and we are already seeing downed trees and power outages,” Foisy said Saturday.
Peak gusts are expected to reach 70 mph (113 km/h) along the eastern Maine coast, but there will be gusts of up to 50 mph (80 km/h) across a more than 400-mile swath of wide, from Moosehead Lake in Maine eastward to the ocean, he said.
Cruise ships found shelter in Portland’s docks, while lobstermen from Bar Harbor, Maine and elsewhere pulled their expensive traps from the water and hauled their boats inland, leaving some ports resembling ghost towns on Friday.
Lee already hit the US Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Bermuda before heading north, and strong swells were likely to cause “life-threatening wave and rip current conditions” in the US and Canada , according to the hurricane center.
Parts of the Maine coast could see waves up to 15 feet high crash, causing erosion and damage, and the strong gusts will cause power outages, said National Weather meteorologist Louise Fode Service. Up to 5 inches of rain was forecast in eastern Maine, where a flash flood watch was in effect.
But even as they prepared, New Englanders seemed largely unconcerned. In Maine, where people are accustomed to destructive Northeast winters, some dismissed Lee’s arrival as something akin to those storms, but without the snow.
“There are going to be huge white rollers coming in with 50 to 60 mph winds. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Bar Harbor lobsterman Bruce Young said Friday. He nevertheless had his boat moved to the local airport, saying it was better to be safe than sorry.
On Long Island, commercial lobsterman Steve Train finished removing 200 traps from the water on Friday. Train, who is also a firefighter, was going to wait out the storm on the island in Casco Bay.
He didn’t mind staying there during the storm. “Not at all,” he said.
In Canada, Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Center, said Lee would not be as severe as the remnants of Hurricane Fiona, which a year ago swept away homes into the ocean and cut off the electricity. in most of the two provinces and dragged a woman into the sea.
But it was still a dangerous storm. Kyle Leavitt, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Management Organization, urged residents to stay home, saying, “Nothing good can come from looking at big waves and how strong the wind really is.” »
Destructive hurricanes are relatively rare this far north. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought gusts up to 300 km/h and sustained winds of 195 km/h to Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts. But no such powerful storms have occurred in recent years.
The region learned the hard way, with Hurricane Irene in 2011, that damage is not always limited to the coast. Downgraded to a tropical storm, Irene still caused more than $800 million in damage in Vermont.
Sharp and Whittle reported from Portland. Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed.