As of Friday afternoon, Hurricane Lee is tracking easterly toward Nova Scotia, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service.
A weather hazards outlook issued by the National Hurricane Center at 5 p.m. on Friday projected that the center of Hurricane Lee would make landfall in southern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia around 2 p.m. on Saturday. While the storm is likely to drop from hurricane status to a tropical depression as it tracks into colder waters in the Gulf of Maine, it maintained wind speeds of 80 mph as of Friday afternoon.
The storm, currently moving at around 20 mph, is still likely to bring storm surges along the coast and high winds to the interior.
Current projections estimate that high winds will start to hit the southern tip of Maine overnight on Saturday morning at around 2 a.m., and wind speeds will maintain ferocity throughout the afternoon. Along with high winds, periods of heavy rainfall are likely throughout inland Maine on Saturday, continuing into the evening.
While the center of the storm is not expected to make landfall in Maine, the radius of the storm can carry wind and rain far from the nucleus, and NWS forecasters expect wind gusts reaching up to 45 miles per hour could extend as far inland as the Katahdin region and Caribou.
The peak of Katahdin could see gusts of up to 65 miles per hour.
The storm is also carrying a significant amount of ice within its main cloud structure, which is why forecasters expect a significant amount of rainfall over eastern Maine on Saturday.
Day Snow-Fog RGB GOES Satellite loop of Lee. The pink shows ice, indicative of the deeper clouds with more moisture…most of the rain and moisture is on the N/NW/W side of Lee's center. #MEwx pic.twitter.com/fWNWWSSxN6— NWS Caribou (@NWSCaribou) September 15, 2023
There are no major changes in the track forecast of Lee, which is still expected to make landfall in Nova Scotia.
Due to the massive windfield with Lee, a tropical storm warning now extends to the St. John Valley, past Caribou and Presque Isle. The tropical storm warning has also been extended westward over the entirety of Piscataquis County, encompassing Penobscot, Kennebec, Knox, Androscoggin, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties. Most of Cumberland, and southern Franklin county also fall under the warning.
…Tropical Storm Warnings Expanded North…— NWS Caribou (@NWSCaribou) September 15, 2023
We expanded tropical storm warnings north to areas such as Caribou, Greenville, and Baxter State Park. Gusty winds will occur areawide during the day Sat. Even well inland, quite a few trees could come down w/ some power outages. #MEwx pic.twitter.com/SFprM14pZI
As of Friday afternoon, winds are expected to hit the southern tip of Maine at around 2 a.m. Saturday. Tropical storm-force winds will move to the midcoast by 8 a.m., moving through the Down East region into Saturday evening.
The worst of the impacts will likely hit eastern and northern Maine throughout the middle of the day.
High tide is at 12:47 p.m. and will bring the biggest threat for coastal damage.
Coastal flooding is possible on Friday night as the storm surge starts to gain momentum.
Waves will be huge on Saturday, with a storm surge of up to 3 feet expected along the Down East coast. According to the NWS, a storm surge of around 1 foot is expected west of Hancock County.
Enormous waves slamming onto the coast causing damage remains the highest threat to midcoast communities, especially around the midday high tide.
Mainers are warned to stay away from the ocean, as the storm surge can prompt unexpected and deadly waves. Waves could reach a height of 15 feet off the Down East coast, according to NWS Caribou forecasters.
There is also a major threat of coastal erosion up and down the Maine coastline.
All of Maine will see gusty winds as Lee approaches. The highest winds will be along the midcoast and Down East Maine. Winds there will gust in excess of 50 mph, with speeds in excess of 60 mph projected to rip through Bar Harbor.
Wind gusts farther inland for towns and cities like Lewiston and Augusta and farther down the coast from the Portland area to the New Hampshire border will approach and potentially exceed 40 mph.
With saturated soils and stressed trees from the very wet summer, the risk of power outages is high. Maine’s emergency management agency is on high alert after Gov. Janet Mills issued an emergency declaration ahead of the storm, and Versant Power and Central Maine Power crews have been seen preparing for outages.
With the highest windspeeds and the brunt of the rain falling in midcoast and Down East Maine, the likelihood of outages is highest through Hancock and Washington counties, although outages are expected throughout the state.
When do the tropical storm force winds arrive? Here is the earliest reasonable and most likely time of arrival. For Eastern Maine, impactful tropical storm force winds could begin as early as 2-8am Sat from SW to NE, and mostly likely somewhere from 8am-noon. #MEwx pic.twitter.com/jOVJIRZpNR— NWS Caribou (@NWSCaribou) September 15, 2023
On Friday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center reported that the outermost bands of rain from Hurricane Lee had started to hit southeastern New England.
The heart of Down East Maine is expected to receive the most rain from the storm, where anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of rain could fall throughout the day Saturday.
Although precipitation totals drop a bit moving inland, the central Maine highlands, northern Penobscot County and southern Aroostook County are projected to see 2 to 3 inches of rainfall throughout the day Saturday.
Southern Maine will escape the worst of the rainfall, with around 1 to 3 inches expected throughout York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Knox and Waldo counties.
The freshwater flood risk outside of Down East Maine is quite low at this time. There could even be some sun late Saturday. Around an inch to an inch and a half of rainfall is projected throughout the St. John Valley.
Because summer rainfall has continued to heavily saturate the ground in many Maine communities, there is a potential for flash flooding along the coast and interior eastern Maine.
Tropical storm warning
As of 11 a.m., the hurricane watch was lifted for the Down East Maine coast between Stonington and the Canadian border as Hurricane Lee tracked eastward. The region remains under a tropical storm warning. The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected — more than just possible — within the next 36 hours.
How to prepare
With all of the uncertainty remaining about storm impacts, many Mainers spent the tail end of the week choosing to batten down the hatches; pulling boats out of the water early, preparing generators in case of power outages and gathering their favorite comfort foods.
In Woolwich, the Taste of Maine store opted to take down Larry the Lobster – the oversized crustacean that sits atop the popular tourist spot, and in Belfast Bay, the trio of inflatable ducks that graced Maine’s shoreline over the summer were deflated to escape storm damage.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency reminds people to keep sources of fresh water available, as well as first aid supplies and flashlights in the case you lose power. Find the full list of suggested hurricane preparations here. The agency fully activated its emergency operations division on Friday afternoon.
For the latest updates, follow the track of Hurricane Lee live here.