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Maine governor declares state of emergency as Hurricane Lee approaches Canadian Maritimes

National Hurricane Center

Maine Gov. Janet Mills has declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Lee's arrival in the state, and is already asking the federal government to issue an emergency disaster declaration.

Mills says the state of emergency will allow the Maine Emergency Management Agency to deploy, quote "all resources necessary" to deal with the effects of the storm.

The presidential declaration, meanwhile, would give Maine access to federal assistance.

In her letter to President Joe Biden, Mills notes that Maine emergency management officials have been stretched by the frequent, intense storms over the last two years, and the federal assistance would help to protect the state's residents and its infrastructure.

The latest forecast projects the storm to hit western Nova Scotia, with much of Maine expected to see strong wind gusts and rainfall of up to four inches.

A hurricane watch has been raised in Maine from Hancock County eastward.

The latest projections from the National Hurricane Center show Lee making landfall in the Canadian Maritimes late Saturday. Up to four inches of rain are forecast for Down East Maine, with 20-foot seas and 70 mph winds along the coast and heavy gusts in the Bangor region and farther inland.

Patrick Maloit, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Caribou office, says for people in the eastern parts of Maine, Lee will resemble a really bad Nor'easter.

"They're going to experience several hours of gusty winds, heavy rainfall, dangerous surf. They're best just staying in their house. And just in case they lose power for a bit, have some extra drinking water, some extra nonperishable food items," he says.

There is also the strong possibility of power outages in Eastern Maine, due to soil already being extremely wet from this summer's rain.

"When you take several inches of rain on top of it, plus the gusty winds, you're still going to bring down some trees. So there's still going to be power outages. I just don't think they're going to be as widespread as they could have been," Maloit says.

Southern Maine may also see some rain if the conditions stay as they are. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the rest of Maine's coast.

And forecasters say there's still the potential for Lee's path to move farther west, toward Maine.

MEMA's Emergency Operations Center will open Friday and remain active through the weekend.

The agency is urging residents to contact their county's Emergency Management Agency for information about open shelters, evacuation orders, and to report medical conditions.

No evacuation orders have been issued, but MEMA recommends that those affected by the storm have two inland evacuation routes. The state's Hurricane Evacuation Dashboard can help.

Emergency officials advise residents to fully charge phones ahead of time and make a power outage plan to power medical devices or refrigeration for medication. For preparedness and safety tips, consult a statement released by Mills and the Maine Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday evening.

Utilities warn that linemen won't go up in bucket trucks if winds are 35 mph or greater, so outages could last 72 hours before power is restored.

Here's the latest from the National Hurricane Center as of 8 a.m. Friday:

"At 800 AM AST (1200 UTC), the center of Hurricane Lee was located near latitude 35.1 North, longitude 67.0 West. Lee is moving toward the north near 16 mph (26 km/h), and a northward motion at a faster forward speed is expected through Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Lee will continue to move farther away from Bermuda this morning and approach the coast of New England and Atlantic Canada today and Saturday. Lee is then expected to turn toward the north-northeast and northeast and move across Atlantic Canada Saturday night and Sunday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph (140 km/h) with higher gusts. Little change in strength is expected through tonight. Lee is forecast to become post-tropical and begin weakening by Saturday, but it is still expected to be a large and dangerous storm when it reaches eastern New England and Atlantic Canada.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles (165 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 320 miles (520 km).

The minimum central pressure based on data from the NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is 962 mb (28.41 inches)."

Updated: September 14, 2023 at 2:18 PM EDT
This post was updated with information about the state of emergency declared by Gov. Janet Mills.
Nick Song is Maine Public's inaugural Emerging Voices Fellowship Reporter.

Originally from Southern California, Nick got his start in radio when he served as the programming director for his high school's radio station. He graduated with a degree in Journalism and History from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University -- where he was Co-News Director for WNUR 89.3 FM, the campus station.