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    Saturday, March 02, 2024

    Storm Lee makes landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada, with winds of 70 mph; 1 man killed in Maine

    A worker prepares to unload diesel fuel from the Eden Star, a 70-foot tour boat that broke free of its mooring during storm Lee, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Bar Harbor, Maine, (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
    Petros Gromitsaris of Bordentown, N.J. gets drenched by a wave as storm Lee pounds the coast at Schooner Head Overlook in Acadia National Park, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, near Bar Harbor, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
    A city worker views a wave crashing along a walkway during storm Lee, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Bar Harbor, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    Bar Harbor, Maine — Atlantic storm Lee made landfall at near-hurricane strength Saturday in Nova Scotia, Canada, after bringing destructive winds, rough surf and torrential rains to a large swath of New England and Maritime Canada that toppled trees, swamped coastlines and cut power to tens of thousands. One person was killed in Maine when a tree limb fell on his vehicle.

    With sustained winds of 70 mph, the center of the post-tropical cyclone came ashore about 135 miles west of Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. That’s about 50 miles southeast of Eastport, Maine.

    The storm was expected to weaken as it moved into New Brunswick and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

    In the United States, a tropical storm warning remained in effect from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, north to the U.S.-Canada border. That included Bar Harbor, the touristy gateway to Acadia National Park, where a whale watch vessel broke free of its mooring and crashed ashore. Authorities worked to offload 1,800 gallons of diesel fuel to prevent it from spilling into the ocean.

    Lee flooded coastal roads in Nova Scotia and took ferries out of service as it fanned anxiety in a region still reeling from wildfires and severe flooding this summer. The province’s largest airport, Halifax Stanfield International, cancelled all flights.

    “People are exhausted. ... It’s so much in such a small time period,” said Pam Lovelace, a councilor in Halifax.

    Hurricane-force winds extended as far as 140 miles (220 kilometers) from Lee’s center, with tropical storm-force winds extending as far as 390 miles (630 kilometers) — enough to cover all of Maine and much of Maritime Canada.

    The storm was so big that it caused power outages several hundred miles from its center. At midday Saturday, 11% of electricity customers in Maine lacked power, along with 27% of Nova Scotia, 8% of New Brunswick and 3% of Prince Edward Island.

    Storm surge of up to 3 feet was expected along coastal areas, accompanied by large and destructive waves, the hurricane center said. Lee could drop as much as 4 inches of rain on parts of Maine, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick through Saturday night, with the potential for local flooding.

    A 51-year-old motorist in Searsport, Maine, died after a large tree limb fell on his vehicle Saturday on U.S. Highway 1 during a period of high winds, the first fatality attributed to the storm.

    The tree limb brought down live power lines, and utility workers had to cut power before the man could be removed, said Police Chief Brian Lunt. The unidentified man died later at a hospital, Lunt said.

    The storm skirted some of the most waterlogged areas of Massachusetts that experienced severe flash flooding days earlier, when fast water washed out roads, caused sinkholes, damaged homes and flooded vehicles.

    “At this point, the storm is resembling a nor’easter,” said Sarah Thunberg, a National Weather Service meteorologist, referring to the fall and winter storms that often plague the region and are so named because their winds blow from the northeast. They typically have a much wider wind field than tropical systems, whose winds stay closer to a storm's center.

    But the entire region has experienced an especially wet summer — it ranked second in the number of rainy days in Portland, Maine — and Lee's high winds toppled trees stressed by the rain-soaked ground in Maine, the nation’s most heavily wooded state.

    Cruise ships found refuge at berths in Portland, while lobstermen in Bar Harbor and elsewhere pulled traps from the water and hauled boats inland.

    Billy Bob Faulkingham, House Republican leader of the Maine Legislature, and another lobsterman survived after their boat overturned while hauling traps ahead of the storm Friday, officials said.

    The boat’s emergency locator beacon alerted authorities, and the two fishermen clung to the hull of the overturned boat until help arrived, said Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell. The 42-foot boat sank.

    “They’re very lucky to be alive,” he said.

    Lee lashed the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda before turning northward, and heavy swells were likely to cause “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” in the U.S. and Canada, according to the hurricane center.

    Even as they prepared, New Englanders seemed largely unconcerned. Some brushed aside Lee as a glorified nor'easter.

    Mickey Neuts-Richards, of South Portland, came out early Saturday to a coastal overlook hoping to see the storm's fury on full display but was disappointed.

    “I was just expecting more waves smashing up against the rocks a little bit, you know? I woke up this morning and I looked out the window and I thought it would be downpouring, but nothing,” she said. “Where’s Lee?”

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

    But it was still a dangerous storm. Kyle Leavitt, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Management Organization, urged residents to stay home, saying, “Nothing good can come from checking out the big waves and how strong the wind truly is.”

    Lee shares some characteristics with 2012’s destructive Superstorm Sandy — both were once strong hurricanes that became post-tropical cyclones before landfall. But Lee is expected to produce far less rain than Sandy, which caused billions of dollars in damage and was blamed for dozens of deaths in New York and New Jersey.

    Destructive hurricanes are relatively rare so far north. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought gusts as high as 186 mph and sustained winds of 121 mph at Massachusetts’ Blue Hill Observatory. But there have been no storms that powerful in recent years.

    Sharp reported from Portland, Maine. Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists Robert Bumsted in Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; Michael Casey in Boston; Rob Gillies in Toronto; and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire.

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