Millions of people are bracing for impacts from Hurricane Lee as the powerful Category 2 hurricane begins its pivotal turn in the Atlantic Ocean that will eventually send the storm on a path to the west of Bermuda, and then on a collision course with coastal New England or Atlantic Canada by the end of the week.
Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for Bermuda, and residents of the British island territory are making final preparations as tropical storm conditions are expected to begin early Thursday morning.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it was also monitoring Lee’s progress and was urging people to prepare for impacts as it approaches the New England area.
“Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of the public, and we urge all residents and mariners in the region to take precautions to ensure their safety,’ the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Emergency Management Agency were also urging residents to start preparations in advance of Hurricane Lee’s approach at the end of the week.
“We are tracking the path of the storm and coordinating with federal and local partners to prepare for its arrival,” Mills said in a statement. “We urge Maine people to exercise caution and to take common-sense steps to ensure they have all they need to stay safe as the storm draws closer moving into the weekend.”
So far, the only tropical warnings that are in effect are for Bermuda, but the National Hurricane Center warned that additional watches or warnings will likely be required for portions of New England and Atlantic Canada later in the day on Wednesday or Wednesday night.
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The NHC says Lee will gradually weaken as it moves into a more volatile environment of increasing wind shear, drier air and cooler waters over the next few days.
However, Lee’s massive size and expected increase in forward speed suggest the weakening process may be slow, and the storm will continue to grow in size as it spins north.
The hurricane is expected to become extratropical – meaning the storm would no longer need to draw its power from warm waters. So for the millions of people living along the coast of New England from Connecticut to Maine, the potential impacts could be more like a nor’easter during winter rather than a land-falling hurricane.
For coastal areas from Massachusetts to Maine, there is the additional risk of experiencing tropical-storm-force winds of 40 mph or greater. Large waves as high as 10-20 feet will be crashing against the shoreline and will bring the risk of beach erosion and coastal flooding.
Where is Hurricane Lee?
As of the latest NHC advisory, Hurricane Lee is located about 420 miles south-southwest of Bermuda and about 1,015 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Hurricane Lee is moving to the north-northwest at 9 mph with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Slow weakening is forecast to begin over the next few days, but the NHC says Lee is expected to remain a large and powerful hurricane.
What is the forecast track for Hurricane Lee?
The NHC says Lee began to turn to the north-northwest on Wednesday, which will then be followed by a turn to the north. An increase in its forward speed also began Wednesday and will continue to increase on Thursday or Friday.
On that forecast track, the center of Lee will pass to the west of Bermuda Thursday and Thursday night. It will then approach the coast of New England or Atlantic Canada by Friday and Saturday. It’s still too early to know where Lee will make landfall, although it’s looking more likely that it will occur somewhere between Maine and Atlantic Canada.
What Watches or Warnings are in effect due to Hurricane Lee?
The NHC says a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Bermuda that will remain in effect until further notice as Hurricane Lee passes by.
A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical-storm-force winds are expected within the storm warning area within 36 hours – and with Lee, will begin late Wednesday or early Thursday. These winds may be accompanied by storm surge, coastal flooding and/or river flooding.
While Lee is expected to stay to the west of Bermuda, tropical storm conditions are likely to begin there late Wednesday or early Thursday morning due to Hurricane Lee’s large wind field.
In addition, the NHC says tropical-related watches or warnings may be required for parts of New England or Atlantic Canada later on Wednesday or Wednesday night.
What will Lee’s impact be in New England?
Hurricane Lee is expected to bring strong, possibly damaging wind gusts to the coastal regions of New England along with massive surf and heavy rain.
Lee will begin to pick up forward speed after it makes its turn to the north, and as it does so, the storm’s wind field is expected to grow in size.
The FOX Forecast Center expects Lee’s wind field to extend more than 550 miles across, which would make impacts far-reaching in New England.
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Winds could be whipping across eastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod as Lee makes its move north off the coast. The strongest wind gusts will likely be felt on Cape Cod in communities such as Provincetown, Eastham, Barnstable and Harwich.
“Lee is going to start to undergo extratropical transition where it becomes less like a hurricane and more like a nor’easter, which folks up in New England are familiar with in the colder time of the year,” National Hurricane Center Director Michael Brennan told FOX Weather on Monday. “So, those can be impactful storms, too. Just because it doesn’t look like a classic hurricane – nothing that gets up into this latitude is going to look like a classic hurricane. It’s going to be fast-moving, and it’s going to have hazards extending hundreds of miles from the center, regardless of the track of the center.”
Most of the heavy rain is expected to fall over Atlantic Canada, but depending on Hurricane Lee’s track a few inches of rain could fall in New England.
Coastal regions from Massachusetts to Maine will see the highest rain totals, with Massachusetts, New Hampshire and most of Maine seeing about 1-2 inches, with higher amounts along coastal areas of eastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod. Eastern Maine could also see more, with forecast totals between 2-5 inches.
People living in New England still have a few days to prepare for any potential impacts Lee will have on the region, but time is running out.
And while potential impacts could be seen in all parts of New England, residents along the Massachusetts and New Hampshire coasts as well as those who live in Maine should pay attention to Lee’s progress and get a plan of action ready to go.