As of late Monday, weather experts said it’s possible but unlikely that Hurricane Lee will pass directly through Maine as it churns north later this week.

But even if the impact is indirect, the state could see high winds, heavy rain, coastal flooding and strong ocean currents.

“It’s still very early, too early to tell,” said Sarah Thunberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. “I think once the storm pivots on Wednesday, as expected, we’ll have a better idea of the path.”

Tropical Weather Beast Mode

Hurricane Lee, right, in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 8, at 4:50 p.m. EDT. Lee is rewriting old rules of meteorology, leaving experts astonished at how rapidly it grew into a goliath hurricane. NOAA via AP

Some scenarios, known as spaghetti model tracks, show the hurricane shifting west, which makes it more likely to impact the East Coast directly. Others, though, show a track that would put the storm more in the path of Maritime Canada.

Either way, though, big waves and rough surf conditions are likely through the weekend.

“At the very least, we are nearly guaranteed to have high surf, long duration swells and life-threatening rip currents later this week and weekend,” Jason Nappi, a meteorologist with NewsCenter Maine, wrote in his forecast Monday.


Rip currents have already killed 71 people in the United States this year, according to National Weather Service data, including three people in New Jersey last week.

Nappi said predicting storms like this is challenging because “a slight wobble or change to the storm track means a lot.”

“Right now, I’m looking at a trough digging to the west and whether it will pull Lee north or miss it altogether,” he wrote. “A few miles slower with the storm track, and we have a hurricane taking longer to get north and potentially missing the trough that scoops it up and kicks it west.”

Thunberg said meteorologists have better technology than ever before to run models, “but models are only as good as observations.”

“We just don’t have as many observations over the ocean,” she said.

The National Weather Service planned to launch extra weather balloons starting Monday to collect more detailed measurements of these weather systems, which can lead to better forecasts, the Washington Post reported.


As of Monday, Hurricane Lee was a Category 3 hurricane, with maximum wind speeds of 120 mph, and located well north of Puerto Rico and far to the east of Florida. The storm is expected to weaken as it travels north but also grow in size.

“It remains too soon to know what level of additional impacts Lee might have along the Northeast U.S. coast and Atlantic Canada late this week and this weekend, however, wind and rainfall hazards will likely extend well away from the center as Lee grows in size,” the National Hurricane Center said in its statement Monday.

Even if the storm tracks back west and makes more of a direct impact with the northern East Coast states like Maine, it will have weakened significantly by then, Thunberg said.

“It’s hard to say what the worst-case scenario might be at this point,” she said.

Historically, Maine has been spared from the catastrophic impact of hurricanes, but there have been exceptions, most recently Hurricane Bob in 1991.

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