The good news is that Hurricane Lee is weakening and will keep doing so before making landfall near the U.S.-Canada border. The bad news is that it will bring dangerous winds and a massive amount of water to areas that are already saturated from heavy rainfall this summer.
“Regardless of its designation, Lee will remain a large and dangerous cyclone while it approaches eastern New England and Atlantic Canada into the weekend,” the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday.
Here are the latest things to know about Lee:
New England is now under watches and warnings
Parts of Maine and Canada are under a hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. The alert is in effect from Stonington, Maine, to Canada’s New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
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Part of coastal Massachusetts is now under a tropical storm warning, including Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod, the hurricane center said in an update Thursday.
“Impacts are expected to be greatest across Cape Cod, where winds may gust as high as 50-60mph,” according to the National Weather Service office in Boston.
Lee's storm surge could cause problems across a broad area. And for much of the U.S. East Coast, forecasters warn of perilous rip currents and surf from the storm.
The storm surge could bring 4 feet of floodwater
Cape Cod Bay could see 2 to 4 feet of water above ground if the storm surge peaks along with high tide, forecasters said. From Sagamore Beach, Mass., to the Canadian border, the figure is from 1 to 3 feet. Martha's Vineyard and Long Island Sound could also have 1 to 3 feet of floodwaters.
“There is the potential for life-threatening storm surge flooding in portions of southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and Nantucket, late Friday and Saturday,” according to the hurricane center.
4 inches of rain could fall in 24 hours
Lee’s winds and rains are expected to arrive along the U.S. coast Friday night. In the following 24 hours, the system could bring 1 to 4 inches of rainfall to parts of eastern New England, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
“This could produce localized urban and small stream flooding,” the NHC said.
The storm’s speed and its exact path will define many of these impacts: hurricanes’ heaviest rains typically fall east of the center, and the effects are amplified when a storm slows down over land.
Maine is preparing for wind and water
“Large waves and dangerous rip current are a certainty at this point, with 15-20 [feet] waves likely just offshore,” the National Weather Service office in Portland said Thursday morning.
On land, high winds could down trees and cause power outages — the office warns that winds will increase Friday night, with gusts reaching 40 mph and up to 50 mph in some areas on Saturday as the winds move inland.
Lee is currently around 600 miles from the East Coast
The hurricane is passing to the west of Bermuda, and its forward speed is picking up, reaching 14 mph as of 11 a.m. ET Thursday.
Lee is now heading north; it's expected to curl more toward a northeast track over the weekend. Along the way, its winds will lose strength and it will speed up even more over the water.
The NHC says the storm will “approach the coast of New England and Atlantic Canada Friday and Saturday, and move across Atlantic Canada Saturday night and Sunday.”
New England has already been drenched by heavy rainfall
“The last Category 1 hurricane to come from the sea and make landfall in Maine was more than a half-century ago,” NPR’s Tovia Smith reported on Morning Edition.
The storm isn't expected to carry that status into this weekend — but by any measure, Lee is arriving at a bad time. Many parts of New England are still recovering from flooding and heavy rainfalls this summer, with some areas seeing 5 to 15 inches more rain than normal in the past 90 days.
The huge storm is roiling beach conditions
Lee isn’t the staggeringly strong hurricane it was one week ago, but it has continued to grow. As of late Thursday morning, it was extending tropical storm-force winds up to 310 miles from its center, with hurricane-force winds stretching up to 90 miles out.
The hurricane's energy is spreading through the Atlantic, bringing treacherous rip currents and surf conditions to beaches on much of the U.S. East Coast.
For a sense of what that energy looks like out in the open water, picture 47-foot waves. That number comes from the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch: “Peak seas associated with Hurricane Lee are around 47 ft near the center,” the agency said Thursday. “Elsewhere, seas between 12 to 19 ft in mixed swell are expected within 480 nautical miles from the center.”
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