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Forecasters warn residents of New England and Atlantic Canada to prepare for Lee


Preparations are underway in parts of the northeastern United States as Hurricane Lee makes its way north off the Atlantic coast.


Yeah. Parts of Maine are under a hurricane watch and the storm is expected to make landfall there this weekend. Residents in Maine and in nearby states are preparing for what could be dangerous conditions and significant damage in a region already battered by flooding and extreme weather.

INSKEEP: NPR's Tovia Smith is covering all this from Boston. Hey there, Tovia.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, for people in Florida, this is normal. For people in North Carolina, this is normal. What about where you are?

SMITH: No, not so much. You know, we hardy New Englanders tend to strut through our winter nor'easters and several feet of snow like it's, you know, just another day. But these hurricanes - not so much. We do see some relatively weaker tropical storms come over land, but the last Category 1 hurricane to come from the sea and make landfall in Maine was more than a half-century ago. And that's because cooler ocean temperatures here tend to weaken these storms. But this one is being fueled by waters that are warmer than normal.

I spoke with Sarah Thunberg with the National Weather Service in Maine. She's one of many extra meteorologists called in to work.

SARAH THUNBERG: Not many of us have ever experienced a hurricane up here. So all of us are getting excited about the weather aspects, and we can actually kind of see some of the stuff that we went to school for. But then, this is also our community, and so we really are trying to stay focused on making sure that everyone is able to get the right information to stay safe.

INSKEEP: How does the weather leading up to this complicate the situation?

SMITH: Yeah. Steve, this has been one of the wettest summers on record, including serious summer flooding in Vermont, for example, and this week's massive flooding in Massachusetts. That brought around 10 inches in just about six hours, and it caused catastrophic damage. So now folks are bracing for even more rain and wind. That's going to compound the challenges 'cause when the ground is already saturated, flooding is more likely, and trees are more prone to come down and to take power lines with them.

Vanessa Corson is with the Maine Emergency Management Agency, and she says residents may be without power for days.

VANESSA CORSON: Because if the winds are 35 miles per hour or higher sustained, they will not send people out in bucket trucks. So people need to be prepared. They may be without electricity till the crews are safe to go up and make those repairs. It could be 72 hours. We hope it's not that long, but you just never know.

SMITH: So right now, folks are heeding the warning, stocking up on food and batteries for the storm.

INSKEEP: You said that cooler ocean temperatures up north tend to protect New England from hurricanes. Is that barrier eroding as climate change warms the planet?

SMITH: Yeah, that's certainly how many see it, including Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, who said this week - I'm paraphrasing here, but she said, we're seeing things every day that we've never seen before.

INSKEEP: Tovia, thanks so much for your reporting.

SMITH: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tovia Smith in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.