[Image of probabilities of 34-kt winds]

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch Wednesday for portions of Down East Maine between Stonington and the Canadian border on Friday evening, highlighting the increasing likelihood that Maine will feel the brunt Hurricane Lee this weekend.

The center issued a tropical storm watch for coastal New England south of Stonington, and emergency officials and utility companies in Maine are preparing for strong winds, heavy rain and coastal flooding.

“The track of Lee is still unknown, but we want folks to pay attention to this storm through the weekend,” said Peter Rogers, Maine Emergency Management Agency director. “MEMA is working with state, federal, nonprofit and private sector partners to assess resources and ensure readiness in advance of the storm. We want everyone to stay safe and please check in on your neighbors.”

Gov. Janet Mills also urged residents to take precautions.

“We urge Maine people to exercise caution and to take commonsense steps to ensure they have all they need to stay safe as the storm draws closer moving into the weekend,” she said in a statement.

Hours before the hurricane center issued its hurricane watch, Justin Arnott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said by the time that Lee reaches the Gulf of Maine late Friday into Saturday it will have weakened to a tropical storm.


Even so, he said, it’s rare for Maine to be directly in the path of such a storm. More often, they drift across the ocean to the east.

Lee still could  swerve east, but the forecasts increasingly indicate that Maine will be in its path. And even if the center of the storm misses Maine, its size means the state will be indirectly hit no matter what.

“I wouldn’t key too much on the dot in the center of this storm because it will expand in size as it travels north,” Arnott said. “Even if the landfall is over Nova Scotia, we’ll have wind and rain and waves. If it’s more direct, it will be all of those things magnified.”

Stephen Baron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, releases a hydrogen-filled weather balloon at 1 p.m. Wednesday. As it rises, the attached string will lift the radiosonde in Baron’s hand. The National Weather Service in Gray typically launches two weather balloons every day to track patterns. With the expected arrival of Hurricane Lee this weekend, the office is releasing four per day to get better data that might lead to better forecasts. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Conditions on the coast could be most extreme, with dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents likely. Tropical storm winds typically range from 40 mph to 75 mph.

According to its website, the organization issues hurricane and tropical storm watches when storms pose a possible threat within 48 hours. A hurricane watch can be upgraded to a hurricane warning when storm conditions are likely.

Will Owen, Yarmouth harbormaster and president of the Maine Harbormasters Association, sent a notice to all harbormasters in the state Tuesday. He advised that anyone who is considering removing their boat from the water still has time to do so. Those who choose to leave their boats should make sure they are secure and monitor them throughout the storm.


“(People) should not go out to their boats during the storm for any reason,” he said. “Stay off the water leading up to, during and after the storm. We want all mariners to be safe and first responders off the water unless they have to respond to an emergency.”

A nearly empty harbor seen at Spring Point Marina in South Portland on Wednesday. Employees said they started with a full harbor on Sunday. They hauled about 170 boats out of the water on Monday, 160 boats on Tuesday and probably about 100 boats on Wednesday in preparation for Hurricane Lee. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Maine’s Department of Marine Resources sent out a notice Wednesday that it was monitoring the storm to determine if a precautionary shellfish closure is needed because of stormwater contamination along the coast. Any closures would be announced by Friday.

Typically, the National Weather Service office in Gray releases a weather balloon twice a day to monitor conditions. In preparation for this storm, Arnott said meteorologists are releasing four balloons a day through the end of the week to get better data, which will improve forecasts. Weather balloons are filled with hydrogen and equipped with a radiosonde, which collects data – humidity, temperatures and wind speeds – in the upper atmosphere, where hurricanes are centered.

Central Maine Power, the state’s largest provider of electricity, is bracing for the likelihood of power outages. In a statement Wednesday, CMP said high winds could topple trees whose roots might be weakened from prolonged wet conditions this summer.

“This summer, the No. 1 cause of power outages has been from stressed trees located outside CMP’s legal ‘right-of-way’ zone that either fall or lose limbs during storms,” said Katie Manende, who leads CMP’s vegetation management program. “Depending on Hurricane Lee’s track and the strength of the storm’s winds, we could see worsened impacts to Maine’s power grid because of these conditions.”

Last month was the fifth-wettest August on record, according to the National Weather Service, with 6.22 inches of precipitation recorded. June and July also were both well above average for precipitation.


Atlantic hurricane season runs through Nov. 30, so Maine could be affected by future storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted the 2023 season would be above normal, citing “ocean and atmospheric conditions, such as record-warm sea surface temperatures.” Already this year, there have been 14 named storms and five hurricanes.

Staff Writer John Terhune contributed to this report.


Tropical Weather

In this satellite image, Hurricane Lee continues its slow west-northwest trajectory across the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday. NOAA/NASA via Associated Press


The Maine Emergency Management Agency offered several suggestions for people to prepare ahead of the coming storm:

Check that your emergency kit includes supplies needed for several days without power, including food, water, and hand sanitizer. Also consider medications, pet food or other special needs.


Get the latest alerts and warnings on your smartphone by downloading the free FEMA app or National Weather Service app.

Ensure cellphones are enabled to receive National Weather Service Wireless Emergency Alerts for tornadoes, flash flooding and other emergency situations.

Charge cellphones and other electronic devices. Have flashlights for every household member.

Determine local evacuation routes.

Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.

Ensure generators are properly installed, fueled, and in good working order. Never use a generator indoors.

Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges. Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the event of a power outage, keep freezers and refrigerators closed. A refrigerator will keep food cold for four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. If you are in doubt, monitor temperatures with a thermometer and throw out food if the temperature is 40 degrees or higher.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.