New England braces for Hurricane Lee

Heavy surf pounds the coastline on Friday at Nauset Beach in East Orleans, Mass., as Hurricane Lee spins offshore. (AP/Cape Cod Times/Steve Heaslip)

BAR HARBOR, Maine -- Hurricane Lee is projected to be more than 400 miles wide with tropical-storm-force winds when it reaches land, creating worries of power outages in Maine, the nation's most heavily forested state, where the ground is saturated and trees are weakened from heavy summer rains.

Lee remained a hurricane with 80 mph winds at night as it headed toward New England and eastern Canada with 20-foot ocean swells, strong winds and rain. Forecasters said there would be winds topping 40 mph across the region, with peak winds reaching upward of 65 mph, ahead of landfall expected this afternoon.

There was little else to be done but wait and worry, and make final preparations as Lee spun about 300 miles southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

On Long Island, Maine, off of Portland, commercial lobster fisherman Steve Train had just finished hauling 200 traps out of the water. Train, who is also a firefighter, was going to wait out the storm on the island in Casco Bay.

He was not concerned about staying there in the storm. "Not one bit," he said.

In South Thomaston, Dave Cousens, who lost fishing gear when Hurricane Bob came through in 1991, said lobstermen were busy moving their traps, which cost $100 to $170 apiece, out of harm's way to try to avoid damage from the rough seas. Some were pulling their boats out, as well.

While landfall was projected for nearby Nova Scotia, the Category 1 system was big enough to cause concerns over a wide area even if it weakens to a tropical storm. Parts of coastal Maine could see waves up to 15 feet high crashing down, causing erosion and damage, and the strong gusts will cause power outages, said Louise Fode, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Maine. Up to 4 inches of rain was forecast for eastern Maine.

Part of the state was under a hurricane watch for the first time since 2008, for Hurricane Kyle, which skirted eastern Maine. The last hurricane to make landfall in Maine was Hurricane Gerda, which hit Eastport in 1969.

In Canada, Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said Lee won't be anywhere near the severity of the remnants of Hurricane Fiona, which washed houses into the ocean, knocked out power to most of two provinces and swept a woman into the sea a year ago.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was convening the incident response group, which meets only to discuss events with major implications for Canada, on Friday. Consisting of Cabinet ministers and senior officials, it was previously convened over events including the start of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the record wildfire season this year.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey joined Maine in declaring a state of emergency and asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to issue a pre-disaster emergency declaration. She also activated up to 50 National Guard members to help with storm preparations, including operating highwater vehicles to respond to flooded areas.

The storm's arrival was expected just days after heavy flooding and tornadoes in New England.

"As we've seen in recent weeks, severe weather is not to be taken lightly. Flooding, wind damage, downed trees, tree limbs -- all these things create real hazards and problems for people," Healey said.

Information for this article was contributed by Rob Gillies and Robert F. Bukaty of The Associated Press.