Lee weakens to post-tropical cyclone, knocks out power as it nears Atlantic coast
The Lee storm system weakened into a post-tropical cyclone as it closed in on New England and Atlantic Canada on Saturday, producing hurricane-force winds that knocked out power to more than 100,000 people.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory that Lee would make landfall on Saturday and was about 185 miles (365 km) south-southwest of Halifax Nova Scotia, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 km/h).
Strong winds, coastal flooding and heavy rains were already occurring in parts of New England and Atlantic Canada, it added.
In the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, more than 100,000 people were without power early on Saturday after high winds brought down trees. In neighboring New Brunswick, 36,000 people had no electricity.
“Crews have been able to restore power to some customers … however, conditions are getting worse. In many cases, especially when winds are above 80 km/h, it isn’t safe for our crews,” said Matt Drover of the Nova Scotia electric utility.
Winds have reached over 100 km/h in parts of the west and over 90 km/h in downtown Halifax, the largest city in the province, he said in a statement. Halifax airport was closed to all flights.
Earlier, the Canadian Hurricane Center projected Lee would make landfall in Nova Scotia some time after 3 p.m. ADT (1800 GMT) or later in New Brunswick with winds below hurricane force.
The potential path could take the storm into the Bay of Fundy, which separates the two provinces and has one of the highest tides in the world, with the difference between high and low tide as much as 12 meters (39 feet), or 16 meters at the head of the bay. Bands from the storm could still be over the bay during a high tide early Sunday morning.
Lee is also expected to generate rainfall of 2-5 inches (5 cm to 12.5 cm).
In anticipation, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for Maine and Massachusetts, providing federal assistance for the state ahead of the storm.
“We encourage all of those in the path of this large and dangerous storm to remain alert,” White Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told a press briefing.
Lee has been churning as a large hurricane over the Atlantic for more than a week, briefly threatening Bermuda but mostly harmless for anyone on land. It marks the second year in a row that such a powerful storm has reached Canada after Hurricane Fiona ripped into eastern Canada a year ago.