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Hurricane Lee and New England: Latest Updates

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Lee is now ready to enter the Gulf of Maine. The way everything is currently trending, this is looking to be impactful for the coast, with very limited impacts inland. Here are the current trends as it pertains to New England.


OVERVIEW


Lee is definitely a coastal storm, with the highest impacts expected along the water. This does not appear to be an overly significant storm inland. You likely won't have to travel very far from the coast before impacts begin to drop off. The exception to this will be eastern Maine, where impacts could push further inland.


Beach erosion and surge is the biggest threat (especially across Cape Cod and Downeast Maine). Power outages and wind is the next biggest threat with rainfall and inland flooding currently being the lowest threat. The track has been trending to the east, a bit further away from New England. This eastward track has continued today, leading to reduced overall impact in New England.


Lee will be worst in Maine, where a state of emergency is now in effect. The White House has approved an emergency disaster declaration for the state as well. Massachusetts has declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm as well.




TRACK & STRENGTH


It's becoming clear that Lee is looking to strike western Nova Scotia, near the Bay of Fundy. Despite this, coastal flooding, high winds and rain is expected along the entire New England coastline.



Lee will undergo a transition to a post-tropical storm in the Gulf of Maine, meaning that Lee will no longer have enough tropical characteristics to be considered a tropical storm. The storm will be become extratropical, similar to a powerful nor'easter. This is rather inconsequential as Lee will very likely maintain tropical storm force winds (tropical storm force winds are 39-73mph). Eastern Maine is likely to bear the brunt of the storm with high winds, pounding surf and potentially flooding rain.



ALERTS


Tropical storm warnings have pushed well inland in eastern Maine, a sign of the ever-growing wind field.


WIND


Tropical storm force winds (or wind gusts) are looking increasingly likely along the entire New England coastline (minus the south coast). It needs to be noted that tropical storm force winds are considered to be 39-73mph. This is a large range. 39mph winds are not damaging, however, 60-70+mph wind gusts are damaging. Winds will pick up Friday night, peak Saturday morning on Cape Cod and Saturday afternoon in Maine. The winds will very slowly die down Saturday night to Sunday morning.


Damaging winds and wind gusts of 50mph or greater will be most likely across Downeast Maine, Maine's Midcoast and Cape Cod. As hurricanes weaken, the wind field expands. Hurricane Lee is already a large storm with far reaching impacts. On top of this, Lee will be undergoing a transition to extratropical, which will allow the winds to expand that much more. Right now, tropical storm force winds extend hundreds of miles from the center, and this will only continue to expand as the storm makes its way north.


This wind field has continued to grow, and the chances of sustained tropical force winds and strong wind gusts is now higher across interior eastern Maine. Widespread power outages are possible across much of Maine, particularly eastern areas, all the way to Caribou, which is now included in the tropical storm warning.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the ground is already over saturated from a very wet summer, as well as the active week this past week. With a wet ground, trees will be easier to uproot with lighter wind gusts. This storm is currently not looking like it will be significant power disruption across New England, however, locally widespread outages are possible across eastern Maine and Cape Cod. Outages could last a while as winds will be slow to die down.



RAIN


The heaviest rainfall will likely be seen on the northern and western sides of the storm. With Lee remaining offshore of New England, this was looking to put New England into the heavy rain. However, with the track further east, most of this rain is now looking to remain offshore, with the exception of eastern Maine. There will likely be a sharp cutoff in rainfall as you head inland.


Up to four inches of rain will be possible across the easternmost Maine coast, with isolated higher amounts. Further inland in eastern Maine, 1-3 inches will be possible with more closer to the coast and gradually winding down as you head north. The storm will be moving along, which should limit major inland flooding issues, but some scattered flash flooding could occur. A flood watch is in effect for eastern Maine.


GFS showing only Maine and Cape Cod getting into steadier rain:



It does look like Cape Cod and eastern Maine could see multiple inches of rain. This will fall on already very wet, over saturated soils. It won't take too much rain to cause issues. The good news with the drier trend is that areas that got slammed by flash flooding earlier in the week are looking to remain out of Lee's rain.





COASTAL FLOODING & SURF



Surf will likely begin to become more rough on Friday and stay rough through the entire weekend. Wave heights will likely peak Friday through Saturday afternoon with in excess of 15-20 feet in open water. Closer to the shore, waves of 6-10+ feet will be possible, with the largest waves across the Maine coast and Outer Cape Cod.


There will very likely be beach erosion across New England. Up to three feet of storm surge flooding is possible across all of New England. The direction of the storm will help limit coastal flooding across Maine, New Hampshire and the north shore of Massachusetts. The biggest concern for coastal flooding is across Cape Cod, where an onshore flow, along with being exposed, will lead to more surge potential.


TIMING


Friday & Friday night: Surf will begin to build


Saturday morning: Conditions will begin to deteriorate


Saturday afternoon-night: The peak of the storm


Sunday: Quick improvements as Lee races away



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