A rare northern hurricane continues to make records
Hurricane Lee is preparing to slam into northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes. While parts of Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are under a hurricane warning, a tropical storm warning extends from Connecticut through Newfoundland and Labrador, highlighting the vast size of this storm. The reach of the storm surge is greater still, with flooding likely throughout the mid-Atlantic states, and deadly rip currents are affecting the entire eastern seaboard.
The sheer size of this storm is not the only thing notable about it. Hurricane Lee first popped onto the radar as an anomaly last week when it underwent rapid intensification. Within just 24 hours, the storm went from a largely disorganized system to a powerful Category 5 storm with sustained windspeeds exceeding 165mph/265kph. The storm has since lost significant power upon reaching the colder northern waters, where it is now a Category 1 storm with sustained winds at 85mph, but its longevity and earlier intensity have been fueled by the exceptionally warm waters of the North Atlantic.
Rapid intensification is when a storm’s windspeed increases by at least 35mph within a period of 24 hours. In Lee’s case, winds strengthened by 85mph in 24 hours. Only two Atlantic cyclones have had bigger jumps in speed, according to NOAA’s John Kaplan. Just a week prior to Lee’s jump in speed, Hurricane Idalia gained 55mph in wind speed within 24 hours before pummeling central Florida as a Category 4 storm and displacing 10,000 people.
According to NOAA’s hurricane database, 20% of North Atlantic Category 5 storms have occurred since 2016, with Lee being in the eighth in the past seven years. This year had been expected to be a relatively normal year for tropical cyclones. However, we are finding ourselves in unchartered territory with the combination of El Niño and rocketing Atlantic ocean temperatures this year, and there is a lot of uncertainty as to how this might affect weather patterns this year.
Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, has preemptively declared a State of Emergency, enabling the Maine Emergency Management Agency to activate in response to Lee’s impacts. Are you in the path of Lee or other critical weather? While evacuations are currently optional, everyone can be prepared with basic needs to get through this storm as safely and comfortably as possible.