Hurricane Lee, which was a Category 5 hurricane over the open Atlantic, has weakened to a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with sustained winds of 115 mph as of Wednesday morning. It is currently located less than 460 miles south-southwest of Bermuda. Despite its reduced intensity, AccuWeather meteorologists are cautioning that Lee will still bring significant impacts to eastern New England and Atlantic Canada by the upcoming weekend.
Lee’s recent history has been marked by rapid fluctuations in strength. It rapidly intensified into a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 165 mph on Friday while over the west-central Atlantic, becoming the strongest storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. This kind of rapid strengthening is rare, with only six hurricanes on record experiencing such intensification.
As Lee approaches North America, it will have traveled nearly 3,000 miles since its formation in the central Atlantic last week. Its strength will continue to fluctuate due to factors like changes in its eye structure, upwelling of cooler water beneath the storm, and disruptive wind shear, according to AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno.
Lee is currently moving along the western edge of a high-pressure system in the central Atlantic and will be influenced by strong winds from the jet stream at higher altitudes later in the week. As it nears land, the areas east of its path will experience a significant storm surge, the strongest winds, and the potential for property damage. The rocky coastlines and regular extreme tides in Maine and Canada may help minimize storm surge flooding, but a more westward track could bring more significant flooding to areas with gentler coastlines.
To the north and west of Lee’s landfall point, heavy rainfall is expected, posing a high risk of stream and river flooding, especially if several inches of rain accumulate.
The severity of the weather conditions, including wind, rain, and coastal problems, in eastern New England, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland will depend on the exact track and strength of Lee later in the week and over the weekend. As Lee moves over cooler North Atlantic waters before landfall, it will lose some wind intensity, but its rain and winds may spread out and potentially be influenced by the jet stream.
AccuWeather meteorologists anticipate a high risk to lives and property from damaging winds and flooding in Nova Scotia, Down East Maine, and southwestern New Brunswick from Saturday to Sunday. However, there is also a risk of direct impacts from Hurricane Lee extending as far west as Rhode Island, with all of eastern Massachusetts, southeastern New Hampshire, and central and coastal Maine within the potential impact zone. The Cape Cod Bay area in Massachusetts could face a moderate risk of impacts, primarily from coastal flooding. Any westward shift in Lee’s track could increase the risk of landfall in New England and expand the area of significant impacts to the west.