top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

After Lee’s landfall, thousands are without power in US and Canada

A utility crew working to repair power-lines in Castine, Maine after Lee, which transitioned from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone early in the morning, made landfall on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.


The storm known as Lee, still a dangerous post-tropical cyclone, made landfall in Canada on Saturday, packing powerful winds in Nova Scotia and in coastal Maine that toppled trees, killing at least one person and knocking out power to tens of thousands of people.

With days to prepare for the slow-moving hurricane, remote coastal towns in eastern Maine and Atlantic Canada had moved methodically to pluck boats from the water and stockpile supplies, allowing residents who pride themselves on rugged self-reliance to face the impact of the weather system with a steady calm, if not serenity.

“We’re an island in the bay. We have storms that never make the news,” said Bud Finch, interim city manager in Eastport, Maine, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway. “We’re much more prepared for it than most people are.”

From its modest beginnings in the first days of September, Lee traveled more than 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, widening to a huge size and reaching Category 5 hurricane intensity with 165 mph winds well away from land on Sept. 8. But by the time the storm traversed the Gulf of Maine on Saturday, it had weakened to a post-tropical cyclone with winds equivalent to those of a Category 1 hurricane.

After moving parallel to the coast for much of the day, sending surging ocean waters over jetties and sea walls, it made landfall in far western Nova Scotia in the afternoon.

By the time the storm brushed against New England on Friday night and Saturday, bringing gusty winds, it was something familiar to the region, akin to a nor’easter, not the hypothetical monster storm that had fueled dread on social media as early as Labor Day weekend, days before it even had a name.

Winds gusted to 44 mph in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the outer edge of Cape Cod, at the height of the storm, and to 55 mph on the island of Nantucket, 30 miles off the state’s coast; gusts hit 77 mph on Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, Canada, according to the National Hurricane Center.

On Saturday morning, it appeared that Cape Cod and coastal Massachusetts had been spared the devastating impacts once feared. But anxiety was climbing in far eastern portions of Maine, and in Atlantic Canada, where wind speeds and wave heights intensified as the center of the storm closed in.

An official in Waldo County, Maine, said one person had died in the storm. The Associated Press reported that the individual, a man, was killed from injuries after a tree fell on his vehicle.

More than 73,000 customers in Maine and 140,000 customers in Nova Scotia were without power Saturday evening, according to Nova Scotia Power and, a website that tracks utility data. Nova Scotia Power estimated that electricity would be restored to many parts of the province Sunday.

Fishermen eyed the worsening conditions with concern. André Atkinson, a fishing boat captain in Barrington, Nova Scotia, one of the regions expected to take the brunt of the storm, returned early from a halibut fishing trip Saturday morning and moved his boat to a safer part of the harbor.

“I’ve been looking at the weather charts for 15 years. I’ve never seen seas like this,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to survive one like this out there.”

Ferries were docked and sports events canceled in Nova Scotia on Saturday. In Yarmouth, a town on the southwestern tip of the province, many shops and cafes on the main street were closed, said Cindy Nickerson, co-owner of a local clothing store, Yarmouth Wool Shoppe. Nickerson said the street lamps and streetlights were rattling in the wind.

“It’ll blow for a while. Then it’ll stop. Then it gets another huff,” she said.

Officials had advised residents of southwestern Nova Scotia to stock up on food and water — and to keep cars away from trees, which may be felled by high winds.

For many in the region, power outages were the biggest problem. Cory Chase, 51, owner of Darby’s Restaurant & Pub in downtown Belfast, Maine, policed the coolers and freezers at his business throughout the day to try and keep them closed and prevent food spoilage.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We’re lucky we didn’t get a direct hit.”

Jamie Dodge, 32, of nearby Northport, ventured out Saturday to the Belfast farmers market, which was held indoors, seeking company, fresh vegetables and a look at how the boats in the harbor were faring in the storm.

“People here don’t usually stay inside for a storm unless there’s 4 feet of snow,” she said.

Maine declared a state of emergency Thursday, and President Joe Biden authorized a federal emergency declaration. Gov. Janet Mills warned residents that the high winds “likely will cause storm surge, inland flooding, infrastructure damage and power outages.”

Massachusetts declared a state of emergency Friday. By Saturday afternoon, the storm had passed east of Cape Cod, bringing strong winds but few reports of serious damage, an outcome that left many grateful.

In Orleans and Harwich, Massachusetts, a few trees fell, police said, while authorities in the town of Truro did not have a single call about the storm overnight Friday.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” said a police dispatcher in Chatham, another small town on the outer Cape that had braced for the worst.

Still, public safety officials warned that rip currents and high surf would remain dangerous even on Sunday, when the sun would reemerge, and urged beachgoers and wave watchers to be cautious.

Andrew Sankey, director of emergency management for coastal Hancock County, Maine, said he, too, hoped that people would resist the lure of crashing waves and keep their distance. He expected road crews with snowplows would be needed to clear piles of wave-driven boulders and debris from some roads after the storm subsided.

19 views0 comments


bottom of page