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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Tropical storm warnings issued for New England as Hurricane Lee’s winds lash Bermuda


A satellite image showing Hurricane Lee off the East Coast on Wednesday.

By Judson Jones


After spinning across the Atlantic for more than a week, Hurricane Lee is producing tropical storm conditions in Bermuda and hazardous beach conditions along the East Coast of the United States. Lee’s forecast path is becoming much clearer, and weather conditions will deteriorate in the Northeast United States and Canada on Friday.


In anticipation of the storm, tropical storm warnings were issued Thursday morning for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts. Hurricane and tropical storm watches have also been issued for most of coastal New England and parts of Canada.


Here are three things to know about Hurricane Lee.


— Tropical storm conditions generated by Lee were reported on Bermuda early Thursday and were forecast to continue through Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm’s center was expected to pass west of the island.


— After the storm passes Bermuda, it is looking more likely that it will turn toward the Gulf of Maine and probably make landfall between Maine and Nova Scotia.


— Because the storm is so large, hazards like heavy rain, wind and flooding are expected to be felt far from the center, regardless of where landfall occurs. Impacts are expected in New England and Atlantic Canada as soon as Friday.


It has been nearly two weeks since speculation about the storm’s impact on the East Coast began. On Thursday, the eventual outcome was becoming more apparent, though a small shift east or west would make a significant difference in expected wind speeds, forecasters in Boston said.


As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Lee was about 245 miles southwest of Bermuda and about 750 miles south of Nantucket. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane, and was moving north at 14 mph. Weakening was expected to continue over the next two days, the hurricane center said, but it would remain “a large and dangerous cyclone while it approaches eastern New England and Atlantic Canada.”


Hurricane forecasters confidently said Thursday morning that the storm was expected to move north after passing Bermuda. By Friday night and into Saturday, Lee was expected to turn slightly left, bringing the large hurricane close to southeastern New England. A hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions are possible within the area, stretched through down-east Maine from Stonington to the U.S.-Canada border.


The Canadian Hurricane Center also issued a hurricane watch Wednesday for part of the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The center said that its hurricane and tropical storm watches referred to conditions expected Saturday.The storm was expected to turn back to the northeast as it moves toward or across the Gulf of Maine, turning itself back toward Atlantic Canada. Landfall will probably occur late Saturday afternoon or overnight somewhere along the Maine or Nova Scotia shorelines.


Forecasters warned that the growing size of the storm means hazards will extend well away from the center.


The ultimate outcome for locations in New England will depend on how a few different conditions play out over the next few days. The amount of rainfall will vary significantly depending on precisely where the storm comes ashore, and the forecast rainfall amounts are likely to shift until the very last minute.


Anne Strauser, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said that the worst-case scenario for Maine would be if the storm shifts farther west and creates more onshore flow, which could make coastal flooding worse. She said any storm surge that occurred there would vary depending on the tide cycle. Unlike when a hurricane makes landfall in the southern United States, and the tides vary by a few feet, the tide swings in Maine can be from 8 to 18 feet. So a storm surge at low tide might not have much of an effect.


Maine has a long history of extra-tropical storms creating significant flooding and wind damage, said Donald Dumont, a meteorologist in Portland, Maine. But although Lee is expected to be strong, Dumont said, it isn’t expected to be as bad as one of the area’s most memorable storms: the “perfect storm” in 1991 that sank the Andrea Gail fishing vessel.


Despite this, coastal erosion and flooding are a real concern. Dangerous surf conditions generated by the storm are already affecting much of the Eastern Seaboard.


Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said Tuesday she was deploying National Guard soldiers to prepare for the storm on Long Island, “out of an abundance of caution.” She warned New Yorkers in coastal areas to watch the forecast and be prepared.


‘It’s just going to get wider.’


As the storm heads north over the next three days, it will weaken as it moves over cooler water. And as it approaches land, it’s likely to transition from a tropical system — one that gets its energy from the ocean — into one similar to Hurricane Sandy’s, which drew energy from competing cold and warm air masses.


While weakening is good, it will not diminish the potential effects of wind, rain and coastal flooding. “This storm is already on the larger side for a hurricane in terms of how wide it is,” Strauser said. “And it’s just going to get wider as it moves north.”


In Canada, officials are concerned that because of Lee’s broadness, it is likely to affect most of the Maritime Provinces and parts of eastern Quebec.


Hurricane-force winds extended up to 105 miles from the center of the storm early Thursday, and tropical-storm-force winds extend to more than double that distance.


Western Nova Scotia faces some of the highest possible impacts from Lee, Environment Canada said.


And while New England is no stranger to extreme winds from intense nor’easters, Strauser noted that those arrive in winter — and that it makes a difference. This time of the year, there are still leaves on the trees, and during tropical systems like Lee, the region typically sees more tree damage and, ultimately, more widespread power outages.



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