On Wednesday evening, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for parts of Maine. A tropical storm warning was also issued for a large area of the New England coast, from parts of Rhode Island to Stonington, Maine, including Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
According to Wednesday’s bulletin at 8 p.m., the center of Hurricane Lee was about 380 miles (610 km) south-southwest of Bermuda and 965 miles (1,550 km) south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.
The forecast says the center of Lee will pass west of Bermuda on Thursday and then approach the coast of New England or Atlantic Canada between Friday and Saturday, according to the NHC.
In this satellite image provided by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration through NASA, Hurricane Lee continues its slow west-northwest track across the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, September 12, 2023.
Strong wind and fallen trees
The National Weather Service said Wednesday that it was investigating reports of strong winds that downed trees and power lines in Rhode Island and Connecticut, but could not say whether they were the result of tornadoes. The tornado warning has been extended for several Massachusetts counties until 5:45 p.m.
Rob Megnia, a meteorologist with the weather service, said they received reports of about 20 downed trees in Killingly, Connecticut, as well as downed trees and power lines in Foster, Rhode Island.
“Normally we would have to do an investigation to determine if it was a tornado unless there is visual confirmation, but we don’t have that yet,” Megnia said.
Emergency sirens could be heard in parts of Providence, Rhode Island on Wednesday afternoon as cell phones rang with a tornado warning. By early afternoon, the weather service said a strong storm capable of producing tornadoes was moving quickly east from Cumberland, Rhode Island, toward the Massachusetts border.
A man examines damage to a home on Hamilton Street in Leominster, Massachusetts, after heavy rain fell across the city overnight.
State of Emergency in Massachusetts
On Tuesday evening, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency after “catastrophic flash flooding and property damage” in two counties and other communities.
The 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain over six hours earlier in the week was a “200-year event,” said Matthew Belk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston.
Healey said Wednesday that while there are no plans to call in the National Guard, the state’s emergency management agency is closely monitoring the weather and is ready to offer assistance.
He said the state was monitoring the condition of dams in many communities and urged residents to take any warnings of possible flooding seriously and stay off roads when ordered.
“Something that seems fairly insignificant can turn into something very serious, life-threatening and very, very destructive in just a few hours,” Healey said.
The rain caused several sinkholes in Leominster, Massachusetts, including one at a dealership that swallowed several cars. In Providence, Rhode Island, downpours flooded a parking lot and parts of a shopping center. Firefighters used inflatable boats to rescue more than two dozen people stranded in cars.
In Leominster and North Attleborough, several businesses’ car parks were briefly converted into lakes and many front gardens were still partially covered with water. On the second day, families were busy assessing the damage and clearing the flood debris. The sounds of generators filled the air in many neighborhoods as residents worked to pump water from their basements.
Rain from Hurricane Lee did not contribute to the flooding earlier this week. But it could flood parts of the northeast coast over the weekend, forecasters said. Lee is traveling north and could make landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada, possibly as a tropical storm.