Hurricane Lee begins making critical turn ahead of New England, Canada impacts
AccuWeather meteorologists expect a high risk to lives and property from damaging winds and flooding as it targets New England and the Canadian Maritimes.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn Hurricane Lee may unleash significant impacts in eastern New England and Atlantic Canada by this weekend.
Hurricane Lee is not the Category 5 hurricane it once was over the open Atlantic, but AccuWeather meteorologists warn it will still unleash significant impacts in eastern New England and Atlantic Canada by this weekend.
On Wednesday morning, Lee was a major Category 3 hurricane strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with sustained winds of 115 mph. It was spinning less than 460 miles to the south-southwest of Bermuda.
Lee has already made history
Lee spent some time as a Category 2 hurricane Sunday following a rapid intensification to a Category 5 hurricane with 165 mph sustained winds Friday while over the west-central Atlantic, making it the strongest storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. Lee was just an 80-mph Category 1 hurricane Thursday.
Only six hurricanes have experienced this level of rapid strengthening, and Lee is in the company of Hurricane Wilma from 2005, Eta from 2020 and Maria from 2017, according to Colorado State Meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.
By the time Lee makes landfall in North America, it will have traveled close to 3,000 miles since birth last week over the central Atlantic.
Factors behind strength and movement of Lee
Fluctuations in strength with Lee will occur due to changes in the hurricane's eye, upwelling of cool water beneath the storm and disruptive breezes known as wind shear, AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.
Lee's impacts will depend on exact track
Near and east of where Lee rolls ashore, a significant storm surge will occur along with the strongest winds and risk of property damage.
The rocky coastline and routine extreme tides in Maine and Canada may minimize storm surge flooding. However, if Lee tracks farther west, where the coastline's slope is more gradual, it could bring significant storm surge flooding.
Near, north and west of where Lee rolls inland, heavy rain will develop, causing a high risk of flooding of streams and rivers where several inches or more pour down.
AccuWeather sounds all-clear for part of US East Coast with a caveat
AccuWeather meteorologists sounded the all-clear for landfall by Lee from Florida to North Carolina late last week. On Tuesday, forecasters expanded that all-clear to include areas as far to the north as the Delaware Bay region.
However, these same areas will experience frequent and strong rip currents that could be life-threatening. Rough surf will lead to beach erosion in the zone. Coastal flooding at times of high tide is likely along portions of North Carolina's Outer Banks and southeastern Virginia this week, with a peak possible Friday.
Farther north, along the swath from New Jersey to Long Island, New York, there is a non-zero chance of Lee wandering in, but the chances will increase exponentially farther to the north in New England and Nova Scotia.
These same areas will experience building offshore swells, coastal wave action, beach erosion, and rip currents from midweek to this weekend.
Eastern New England to Newfoundland and Labrador watching Lee closely
The severity of conditions from eastern New England to Nova Scotia and the island of Newfoundland in terms of wind, rain, and coastal problems will depend on the exact track and strength of Lee late this week and this weekend.
Lee is expected to be a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes in the United States and Canada.
As Lee moves over cooler waters of the North Atlantic late this week and this weekend, prior to landfall, it will lose some wind intensity, Rayno said. However, as this happens the storm's rain and winds will tend to spread out and could be expanded more so and potentially enhanced by the jet stream.
At this time, AccuWeather meteorologists expect a high risk to lives and property from damaging winds and flooding on much of Nova Scotia, Down East Maine and southwestern New Brunswick from Saturday to Sunday.
However, some risk from direct impacts from Hurricane Lee extends as far to the west as Rhode Island and includes all of eastern Massachusetts, southeastern New Hampshire, and central and coastal Maine.
The stretch of coastline along Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, may end up with a moderate risk of impacts, mainly from coastal flooding.
Any westward shift in Lee's track would increase the risk of landfall in New England and the risks of significant impacts farther to the west.
Offshore impacts, including Bermuda
Forecasters urge deep sea fishing and cargo interests as well as all small craft and large cruise ship operations to monitor Hurricane Lee forecasts through this weekend. Large and dangerous swells of 20-30 feet are possible ahead of the center of the storm, and swells of 10-20 feet will radiate outward from the center days in advance.
As Hurricane Lee passes 100 miles or more to the west of Bermuda from Friday to Saturday, impacts on the islands will be Less than 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes. Tropical-storm-force sustained winds are likely along with some heavy rain and dangerous surf. But, with a high level of construction codes on Bermuda, most of the problems will stem from disruptions to travel and daily activities.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic
Meanwhile, AccuWeather meteorologists continue to watch Margot over the central Atlantic, which strengthened from a tropical storm to a hurricane on Monday afternoon. The storm may spend its entire life at sea with little or no impact to land.
Another area that AccuWeather forecasters are tracking is a tropical disturbance, called a tropical wave, that has a high chance of becoming a tropical storm this weekend into next week over the central Atlantic. Experts are concerned that this storm could strengthen quickly and follow on the heels of Lee, threatening the U.S. before the end of the month.
If the system becomes a tropical storm, the next name on the list for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season is Nigel.
"The very same steering influencers [impacting Lee] may impact the system during the second half of September," Rayno said. "It could take a relatively similar path to Lee over the Atlantic."
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