Hurricane Watch Announced for Specific Maine Regions as Waterlogged New England Prepares for Storm Lee

by Sophia Chen
Hurricane Lee

On Wednesday, Hurricane Lee advanced northwards towards New England, posing a renewed threat of violent weather to a region already grappling with tornado warnings and a consecutive day of intense rainfall in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The inclement weather has led to severe flooding and sinkholes in numerous communities.

In the late hours of Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center declared a hurricane watch for select areas of Maine. Concurrently, a tropical storm watch was activated for an expansive section of the New England coastline, stretching from certain areas of Rhode Island to Stonington, Maine. This also encompasses Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

The National Weather Service has begun investigating reports of potent winds that have felled trees and disrupted power lines in both Rhode Island and Connecticut. However, it remains inconclusive whether these incidents are tornado-induced. Tornado warnings were extended until 5:45 p.m. in several counties across Massachusetts.

Rob Megnia, a meteorologist affiliated with the weather service, stated that approximately 20 trees have been reported down in Killingly, Connecticut, and additional reports indicate fallen trees and power lines in Foster, Rhode Island.

“Generally, a field survey would be necessary to definitively establish whether a tornado has occurred unless we have visual verification, which is currently not available,” Megnia remarked.

Emergency warning systems were activated on Wednesday afternoon in portions of Providence, Rhode Island, coinciding with tornado alerts sent to mobile devices. By early evening, the weather service indicated that a severe thunderstorm with the potential to spawn tornadoes was swiftly moving east towards the Massachusetts border from Cumberland, Rhode Island.

On Tuesday evening, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency in response to “cataclysmic flash floods and property damage” affecting two counties and multiple other localities. Matthew Belk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston, described the deluge—amounting to 10 inches of rainfall in six hours earlier in the week—as a “200-year event.”

Although there are no immediate plans to mobilize the National Guard, Healey assured that the state’s emergency management agency is vigilantly monitoring meteorological developments and is ready to provide aid as needed. She urged residents to heed flood warnings seriously and refrain from using roadways during such alerts.

“Even seemingly minor conditions can rapidly escalate into life-threatening and highly destructive situations,” Healey cautioned.

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In Leominster, Massachusetts, rainfall caused several sinkholes, including one at a car dealership where numerous vehicles were engulfed. Additionally, torrential rains in Providence, Rhode Island, resulted in the flooding of a parking area and sections of a retail complex. Firefighters deployed inflatable boats to rescue over two dozen individuals stranded in their vehicles.

Prolonged rainfall led to temporary lake-like conditions in commercial parking lots in both Leominster and North Attleborough, while residential front yards remained partially submerged. Residents spent another day evaluating the destruction and clearing flood-damaged remnants.

John DeCicco, a retired educator in Leominster, expressed the community’s growing optimism as cleanup efforts progressed. DeCicco, who lent generators to neighbors to help maintain water pump operations during the flood, noted the unprecedented intensity of the electrical storms and rains.

“You can deploy snow plows for snow removal, but they are of no use in moving water,” DeCicco stated.

Leominster’s emergency management director, Arthur Elbthal, confirmed that two out of the city’s 24 dams sustained damage but are being reinforced. Estimates for city infrastructure repairs range from $25 million to $40 million.

As the global atmosphere warms, extreme rainfall events are becoming increasingly frequent, intensifying the risks associated with such weather patterns.

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Dawn Packer’s last name and to amend the timeline in the section mentioning Packer.

Reported by McCormack from Concord, New Hampshire, with contributions from Holly Ramer in New Hampshire, Steve LeBlanc and Rodrique Ngowi in Massachusetts, David Sharp in Maine, Lisa Rathke in Vermont, and David Lieb in Missouri.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hurricane Lee

What areas are under a hurricane watch due to Hurricane Lee?

Late on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for specific regions in Maine.

What areas are under a tropical storm watch?

A tropical storm watch has been activated for a broad stretch of the New England coastline, ranging from selected areas in Rhode Island to Stonington, Maine. The watch also includes Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

Has a state of emergency been declared in any states?

Yes, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency following catastrophic flash floods and property damage in two counties and other communities within the state.

What are the latest weather reports suggesting about the possibility of tornadoes?

The National Weather Service has reported strong winds that have knocked down trees and power lines in Rhode Island and Connecticut. Although it remains inconclusive whether these are tornado-induced, tornado warnings were extended in several Massachusetts counties until 5:45 p.m.

What is the condition of dams in the affected regions?

Governor Maura Healey stated that the state is closely monitoring the conditions of dams in numerous communities. In Leominster, two out of 24 dams have sustained damage but are being reinforced.

Are there any reports of property damage or casualties?

Yes, extensive property damage, including severe flooding and sinkholes, has been reported in numerous communities. Emergency services have been activated, and there have been rescues from stranded vehicles.

What are state officials advising residents to do?

Residents are urged to take flood warnings seriously, stay off the roads during severe weather alerts, and to monitor official sources for information. Governor Healey emphasized that even minor conditions could escalate into life-threatening situations rapidly.

What impact could Hurricane Lee have on already flood-stricken areas?

Meteorologists warn that because the ground is already saturated from previous heavy rainfall, additional rainfall from Hurricane Lee could exacerbate flooding conditions.

What estimates are available for infrastructure damage and restoration?

In Leominster, early estimates for city infrastructure restoration range between $25 million and $40 million.

Are scientists linking these extreme weather events to climate change?

The article states that scientists are observing that extreme rainfall events are becoming increasingly frequent around the world due to a warming atmosphere.

More about Hurricane Lee

  • National Hurricane Center Updates
  • Massachusetts State of Emergency Declaration
  • National Weather Service Tornado Warnings
  • New England Flooding History
  • Climate Change and Extreme Weather
  • Infrastructure Damage Estimates in Leominster
  • Tropical Storm Watch Areas
  • Emergency Services in Rhode Island and Connecticut
  • Scientific Studies on Increased Rainfall Events
  • Evacuation and Rescue Operations in Affected Areas

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SaraH_L September 13, 2023 - 11:24 pm

What’s happening with climate change? looks like things are going from bad to worse. And now they’re monitoring dams too? scary stuff.

Alan K September 13, 2023 - 11:42 pm

Hurricane, tornado warnings, and floods? That’s a trifecta no one wants. Hope everyone is taking the necessary precautions.

Dave_R September 14, 2023 - 1:35 am

Heard about the devastation in Leominster. They’re saying the restoration could cost up to $40 million? That’s insane!

Jen T September 14, 2023 - 7:23 am

this is just crazy. how many storms are we gonna have? Seriously, it’s like the weather’s gone mad.

FrankM September 14, 2023 - 1:21 pm

It’s high time governments start taking these extreme weather patterns seriously. We can’t keep calling them ‘200-year events’. It’s a clear trend now.

Mike S September 14, 2023 - 7:23 pm

Wow, this situation sounds really bad. I can’t believe how fast the weather’s changing these days. State of emergency and all, stay safe people.

BettyW September 14, 2023 - 8:55 pm

i’m in RI and we just got a tornado warning on our phones. Never thought I’d see the day where that would happen here.


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