Updated September 18, 2023
Post-tropical Storm Lee made landfall at near-hurricane strength
Post-Tropical Cyclone Lee made landfall on Saturday, Sep. 16 at 4:10 p.m. local time (8:10 p.m. UTC) over Long Island in western Nova Scotia, about 50 miles (80 km) east-southeast of Freeport, Maine, and 135 miles (217 km) west of Halifax, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NHC changed Lee’s status from hurricane to post-tropical storm early Saturday morning, indicating that the system no longer exhibited a tropical cyclone-like structure. However, Lee was no less dangerous. It was still producing hurricane-force winds at the point at which its status was downgraded.
Maximum sustained wind speeds at landfall were just below hurricane strength. Reports show the storm system had maximum sustained wind speeds of 70 mph (110 km/h) at landfall, making this storm much less powerful Fiona in 2022. However, by landfall, Post-Tropical Storm Lee was incredibly large (Figure 1), affecting numerous communities. The National Weather Service (NWS) reported 60 mph (97 km/h) wind gusts around Cape Cod in Barnstable County, Massachusetts. In Maine, the strongest wind gusts were recorded in the cities of Perry (83 mph or 134 km/h) and Jonesport (63 mph or 101 km/h) of Washington County.
A weather station on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, recorded a hurricane-force wind gust of 93 mph (150 km/h). In Halifax, Nova Scotia, a weather station recorded a maximum wind gust of 73 mph (117 km/h).
Weekend reports show a high number of power outages in Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick due to downed trees hitting power lines. Fallen trees hitting homes, cars, and power lines are likely to be the biggest sources of damage from Post-Tropical Cyclone Lee. Fortunately, maximum wind speeds decreased significantly prior to landfall, so widespread, wind-born property damage was limited. Wind-born damage was curbed despite the U.S. Northeast and eastern Canada have a higher proportion of older homes and generally less stringent hurricane-related building codes relative to more hurricane-prone regions like Florida.
Storm surge and intense precipitation flooded roadways close to the coast and inland bodies of water, but there are few reports of widespread water damage across the Northeast and eastern Canada. Post-Tropical Storm Lee’s landfall location was far enough west to avoid the types of devastating coastal flooding seen last year when Fiona made landfall.
September 14, 2023
Impacts to New England and eastern Canada are expected over the weekend
Hurricane Lee has been a storm to watch. Initially, the system intensified at a historic pace, growing from a Category 1 to Category 5 hurricane within 24 hours. Now, Hurricane Lee has begun to turn north. Fortunately, cooler sea surface temperatures, wind shear, and eyewall replacement cycles have reduced the maximum wind speeds.
Hurricane Lee is currently a Category 2 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) Public Advisory #36A, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 100 mph (155 km/h). Model guidance suggests that the storm will continue north towards New England and eastern Canada. (Figure 1).
Those with interests in coastal Massachusetts, including Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod, as well as New Hampshire, Maine, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland should continue to watch the NHC.
A hurricane watch is in effect in northern coastal Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. A tropical storm watch is issued from Rhode Island to southern Maine.
As of Thursday, Sep. 14 at 8:00 a.m. EDT, Hurricane Lee is in the western North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 265 miles (425 km) southwest of Bermuda. The NHC issued a tropical storm warning for Bermuda. Tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph (63 km/h) are expected in Bermuda (Figure 1), but the most severe winds of the hurricane eyewall will pass the island to the west (Figure 2). The prevalent construction practices and building codes in Bermuda will likely mitigate potential damage.
There is some model uncertainty on the exact landfall location and final intensity of Hurricane Lee. Cold ocean temperatures will prevent future intensification, and the storm is expected the weaken slowly as it moves north past New Jersey.
Models show that by landfall, Lee will be a post-tropical storm. However, there is still potential for hurricane-force gusts in New England and eastern Canada. Additionally, the storm is now incredibly wide, with tropical storm-force winds currently extending in a 290 mile-radius from the eye. This means a significant number of properties could be exposed to severe winds, storm surge, and inland flooding.
Despite forecasts of a lower-intensity system as the storm approaches the coast, damage is still possible. There is a greater concentration of older construction in these areas when compared with the southeastern U.S., and unlike regions like Florida that are more prone to hurricane landfalls, new construction in the Northeast and eastern Canada are not designed with the same wind speed standards. Even sustained tropical storm-force winds and brief hurricane-force gusts may cause substantial damage, similar to what happened in 2022 when Fiona made landfall in Canada.
Additionally, coastal and inland flooding are expected. The NHC issued storm surge watches in Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket. Coastal flooding may be severe if the peak surge coincides with high tide. Along Long Island and coastal Massachusetts, 1-foot to 4-foot storm surge depths are possible. Up to 4 inches of rain may fall across portions of eastern New England and eastern Canada.
CoreLogic Hazard HQ Command Central™ will continue to watch Hurricane Lee. Updates will be provided when is more known.
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