Millions of people were under storm warnings and storm warnings Saturday as Hurricane Lee rolled toward the coast, heading toward New England and eastern Canada with fierce winds, high seas and rain.
Cruise ships found refuge at moorings in Portland, Maine, while lobstermen in Bar Harbor and elsewhere pulled their expensive traps from the water and dragged their boats inland, leaving some ports looking like ghost towns.
Utility workers from as far away as Tennessee took to the scene to repair damage caused by Lee, which was still a Category 1 hurricane late Friday evening with sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (128 km/h).
The storm was forecast to brush the New England coast before making landfall later Saturday in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, where it will be hardest hit along with New Brunswick. However, Lee’s impact was expected to be felt over a vast area. The National Hurricane Center forecast hurricane-force winds extending more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Lee’s center, with smaller but still dangerous tropical-storm-force gusts up to 345 miles (555 kilometers) miles outside.
A state of emergency was declared for Massachusetts and Maine, the country’s most forested states, as heavy summer rains saturated the ground and weakened trees.
Lee had already lashed the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda before turning north, and heavy swells are expected to cause “life-threatening surf and rip current conditions” in the U.S. and Canada, the hurricane center said.
Parts of Maine’s coast could see waves as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters), causing erosion and damage, and the strong gusts will lead to power outages, said Louise Fode, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Maine. Up to 5 inches (12 centimeters) of rain was forecast for eastern Maine, where a flash flood warning was in effect.
Yet even as they hunkered down and prepared, the New Englanders seemed unconcerned with the possibility of severe weather.
In Maine, where people are used to devastating nor’easters in the winter, some dismissed the coming lee and saw it as something similar to storms only without snow.
“There will be huge white rollers coming up with winds of 50 to 60 miles per hour. “It’s going to be pretty entertaining,” Bar Harbor lobsterman Bruce Young said Friday. Still, he had his boat taken to the local airport, saying it was better to be safe than sorry.
On Long Island, commercial lobsterman Steve Train pulled 200 traps from the water Friday. Mr. Train, who is also a firefighter, wanted to wait out the storm on the island in Casco Bay.
He wasn’t worried about staying there in the storm. “Not one bit,” he said.
In Canada, Ian Hubbard, meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Hurricane Center, said leeward will not be nearly as strong as the remnants of Hurricane Fiona, which washed homes into the sea and knocked out power in most of two provinces and a year ago a woman was washed 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 watching the big waves and seeing how strong the wind really is.”
Destructive hurricanes are relatively rare this far north. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought gusts of up to 186 mph (300 km/h) and sustained winds of 121 mph (195 km/h) at the Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts. However, there have been no such strong storms in recent years.
With Hurricane Irene in 2011, the region learned the hard way that damage is not always limited to the coast. Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm but still caused over $800 million in damages in Vermont.