A member of the media films the storm that hit Market Wharf during post-tropical Cyclone Lee in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, on Saturday, September 16, 2023. Canada’s maritime vessels will bear the brunt of Hurricane Lee, now officially a post-tropical cyclone with maximum wind speeds of 130 kilometers per hour.
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The center of post-tropical Cyclone Lee made landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada, on Saturday with sustained winds of 70 miles per hour, U.S. weather officials said Saturday.
The center of the storm made landfall about 135 miles west of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the U.S. National Hurricane Center. That’s about 50 miles southeast of Eastport, Maine.
Lee was once a hurricane and still almost as strong. Lee brought high winds, rough surf and torrential rain to much of New England and Maritime Canada on Saturday, toppling trees, flooding coastlines and knocking out power to tens of thousands.
Many residents dismissed Lee, now a post-tropical cyclone, as not much worse than the region’s famous and frequent nor’easters, a similarity some meteorologists recognized while warning people not to underestimate it.
The center of the storm made landfall in Canada at near-hurricane force on Saturday afternoon and was then expected to weaken as it moved into New Brunswick and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, forecasters said.
In the United States, a tropical storm warning was in effect for a 230-mile stretch from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to the eastern end of Maine. That included Bar Harbor, the tourist gateway to Acadia National Park, where officials closed a parking lot near a pier when the tide came in and waves crashed against the seawall.
Activity at the Scituate Boat Ramp prior to Hurricane Lee.
Stuart Cahill | Getty Images
Lee flooded coastal roads and boats in Nova Scotia, toppled power lines and trees and took ferries out of service as it fueled unrest in a region still reeling from wildfires and severe flooding this summer. Nova Scotia’s largest airport, Halifax Stanfield International, had no inbound or outbound flights scheduled Saturday.
“People are exhausted. … It’s so much in such a short period of time,” said Pam Lovelace, a councilor in the capital Halifax. “From a mental health perspective, we are asking people to reach out to their neighbors.”
A tropical storm warning was in effect for much of New Brunswick and all of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, along with a hurricane watch for parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The storm’s center was just off southern Nova Scotia — dozens of miles southeast of Eastport, Maine — with maximum sustained winds of nearly 70 miles per hour, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its 2 p.m. EDT advisory. Hurricane force is 74 mph (119 km per hour).
Hurricane-force winds extended as far as 140 miles from Lee’s center, while tropical storm force winds extended as far as 390 miles – enough to cover all of Maine and much of Maritime Canada.
The storm was so violent that it knocked out power several hundred kilometers from the center. As of Saturday afternoon, 11% of Maine electricity customers were without power, along with nearly a third of Nova Scotia, 8% of New Brunswick and 3% of Prince Edward Island.
A storm surge of 1 to 3 feet was forecast for the coast of Maine, and the U.S. Hurricane Center warned it would be accompanied by large and destructive waves. The storm could drop as much as 10 centimeters of rain on parts of Maine, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by Saturday night, with the risk of local flooding, forecasters said.
The storm passed through some of the swampiest areas of Massachusetts that experienced severe flooding days earlier, as fast water washed away roads, causing sinkholes, damaging homes and submerging vehicles.
“Right now the storm looks like a nor’easter,” said Sarah Thunberg, a National Weather Service meteorologist, referring to the fall and winter storms that often hit the region and are so named because their winds blow from the northeast. They typically have a much broader wind field than tropical systems, whose winds stay closer to the center of a storm.
Keith Oliver works on a boat travel lift to retrieve a boat from the ocean at Billings Diesel & Marine Service in preparation for the possible arrival of Hurricane Lee on September 15, 2023 in Stonington, Maine.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
But the entire region has had a particularly wet summer — it ranked second in the number of rainy days in Portland, Maine — and Lee’s high winds toppled trees stressed by Maine’s sodden soil, the most heavily forested state in the country.
Cruise ships took refuge at moorings in Portland, while lobstermen in Bar Harbor and elsewhere pulled traps from the water and towed boats inland.
Billy Bob Faulkingham, the Republican leader of the Maine House of Representatives, and another lobsterman survived after their boat capsized while towing traps for the storm Friday, officials said.
The boat’s emergency beacon alerted authorities, and the two clung to the hull until help arrived, Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell said. The 42-foot boat sank.
“They’re lucky to be alive,” he said.
Lee battered the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda before turning north, and heavy swells caused life-threatening surf and currents in the U.S. and Canada, the hurricane center said.
Forecasters urged residents to stay home: “Nothing good can come from watching the big waves and how strong the wind really is,” said Kyle Leavitt, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Management Organization.
But many ventured anyway. Among them was Ren Renton on Maine’s Bailey Island, a narrow spit of land jutting into the Gulf of Maine.
“The ocean is always dynamic, no matter what storm you get,” she said. “It comes and goes and takes what it wants, but hopefully not too much.”
Lee shares some characteristics with 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. Both were once strong hurricanes that became post-tropical cyclones before landfall – cyclonic storms that have lost most of their tropical characteristics. But Lee wasn’t expected to be nearly as destructive as Sandy, which caused billions of dollars in damage and was blamed for dozens of deaths in New York and New Jersey.
Lee is also not nearly as severe as the remnants of Hurricane Fiona, which washed homes into the ocean a year ago, knocked out power in most of two provinces and washed a woman into the sea, Canadian meteorologist Jill Maepea said.
Destructive hurricanes are relatively rare in the far north. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought gusts of up to 200 miles per hour and sustained winds of 120 miles per hour at the Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts. But in recent years there have been no storms this powerful.