‘It’s gigantic’: Hurricane Lee heads for New England and Atlantic Canada

Hurricane Lee, a mammoth peak-season storm within the Atlantic, is making a beeline for New England and Canada. As soon as a Class 5 storm, Lee weakened to Class 1 by the point it made a northward pivot and started its march towards land on Thursday. However the storm continues to be anticipated to lash components of Massachusetts, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia with tropical-storm-force winds, rain, waves, and doubtlessly catastrophic storm surge because it makes landfall over the weekend.  

Meteorologists are particularly involved concerning the Bay of Fundy, a physique of water between japanese Maine and Nova Scotia that holds the document for the very best tides on this planet — with a distinction of as much as 53 toes between high and low tides. With just a little little bit of unhealthy timing, Lee’s highly effective winds may power an amazing quantity of water into the bay on high of a excessive tide, and inundate New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with document flooding. 

Mark Wiatrowski steps over the mast onboard his boat, which was within the means of being hauled out of the water forward of Hurricane Lee in Hyannis, Massachusetts on September 13. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe through Getty Pictures

Even on an bizarre day, the Fundy tides are so dramatic that they will sweep over entire seashores in a matter of minutes. In some components of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the incoming water at excessive tide pushes to date inland that it reverses the stream of rivers, a phenomenon often called a tidal bore.

“If the storm goes simply west of the Bay of Fundy, and it’s aligned with the right tide cycle — effectively, it’s an unlucky science experiment,” mentioned Jeff Berardelli, chief meteorologist for WFLA-TV in Tampa Bay, Florida. “We’ve by no means seen one thing like that precisely.” 

Lee’s winds might be blowing west, which makes Nova Scotia, on the east aspect of the Bay of Fundy, significantly susceptible to rising waters. There, waves may attain 40 toes in top on high of three to 6 toes of storm surge. “The water impacts, simply precisely what’s going to occur there, that’s the massive query mark,” mentioned Ryan Truchelut, a meteorologist and the founding father of the climate Substack WeatherTiger. “That’s doubtlessly probably the most severe facet of the storm.” 

Storm surge is also a problem on the north-pointing a part of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Nationwide Hurricane Middle has issued a storm surge look ahead to that portion of the cape. 

Sixty-four-year-old Howard Zwicker owns the Harbour Grille & Reward Home on Grand Manan Island, a small Canadian island between Maine and Nova Scotia on the huge mouth of the Bay of Fundy. On Thursday morning this week, he was unruffled by the forecast. “We’re cleansing up our yard, taking down our hanging vegetation and our terrace furnishings, and that’s just about it,” mentioned Zwicker, who was born on Grand Manan Island and has run the Harbour Grille together with his spouse for the previous decade. “Everyone is doing their due diligence, however no person’s panicking.” 

Luis Javier and Wichie Torres pull lobster packing containers to dry floor on the Stonington Lobster Co-op in preparation for the attainable arrival of Hurricane Lee in Stonington, Maine, on September 15. Joe Raedle/Getty Pictures

Storms of Lee’s depth aren’t uncommon within the northern Atlantic, although they hardly ever make landfall in New England and coastal Canada. Lee’s impacts can even be irregular in a few respects. It’s a big climate system — the hurricane’s tropical power winds span roughly 600 miles in diameter — which implies its results might be felt in a number of states alongside the Jap Seaboard. 

“It’s gigantic,” mentioned Truchelut. “By way of tropical storm wind radii, this is likely one of the very largest on the market.” A lot of coastal New England will expertise big, battering waves which are 15 toes or larger. On Thursday, the governor of Maine issued a state of emergency because the state was put below its first hurricane watch in 15 years. 

The opposite uncommon factor about Lee is that the storm will convey flooding to part of the U.S. that’s already waterlogged from a summer season so wet it broke data in components of New Hampshire and Vermont. This summer season was Maine’s second wettest on document, behind the summer season of 1917. Report-breaking rainfall is a telltale signal of climate change; analysis reveals a warmer environment holds extra evaporated water. 

Flooding introduced on by Lee on high of the already soaked soil in New England will make the storm’s impacts extra harmful. Heavy gusts of wind could cause bushes rooted in saturated soil to tip over, and localized flooding is extra probably. “Fifty- or 60-mile-per-hour winds, you get that yearly,” Truchelut mentioned. “The distinction right here is that the bushes nonetheless have their leaves on, and the soil is moist from latest rainfall.” 

Local weather change doesn’t create giant hurricanes like Lee, however it does make them intensify sooner and happen extra ceaselessly. The Atlantic Ocean is at the moment going by a interval of maximum sea-surface warming — water temperatures in components of the North Atlantic have hovered round 77 levels Fahrenheit for greater than a month, “virtually past probably the most excessive predictions of local weather fashions,” the Washington Put up reported in July. That document heat allowed Hurricane Lee to accentuate from a tropical melancholy to a Class 5 storm in lower than three days, a phenomenon that has solely occurred a few instances earlier than in Atlantic hurricane historical past. 

Two males board up a door in preparation for Hurricane Lee in Scituate, Massachusetts. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe through Getty Pictures

“Given the record-high sea-surface temperatures within the North Atlantic, it’s attention-grabbing that on this yr we see a hurricane barreling towards New England,” mentioned Sean Birkel, the state climatologist for Maine. “As a result of it’s uncommon for hurricanes to achieve New England and positively into Maine.” 

Lee is arriving on the meteorological midpoint of hurricane season, and there are a number of different storm techniques on its tail. These embody Margot, which is churning in the midst of the Atlantic, and a still-forming storm that would change into Hurricane Nigel. Forecasts present Nigel taking the identical path as Lee, west throughout the Atlantic Ocean and up previous Bermuda. Even when the Northeast escapes main injury from Lee, it is probably not out of the woods but.

Jake Bittle contributed reporting to this text.

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