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Hurricane watch extended as Lee looms large over Atlantic Canada

Hurricane Lee is expected to move into western Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick Saturday
This satellite image provided by CSU/CIRA-NOAA shows hurricane Lee in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, September 15, 2023. Residents of the Maritimes are being warned to prepare for damaging winds, large waves, flooding and power outages as hurricane Lee is expected to transform into a large, powerful post-tropical storm Saturday after entering Canadian waters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CSU/CIRA-NOAA

Boats were being pulled out of the water in Nova Scotia Friday as forecasters warned hurricane Lee could soon bring damaging winds, large waves, flooding and power outages.

Jennifer Chandler, commodore at the Chester Yacht Club, said she and her team have been working for days to prepare for what she anticipates will be a “significant storm.” Chester is in Lunenburg County, which with neighbouring Halifax County was added Friday to the list of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick communities under a hurricane watch.

“When we get a direct impact, it hits us pretty hard here,” Chandler said in an interview. “Over the last five days, most people have been taking their boats out if they can …. We’ll be lashing down a lot of the gear. We’ve already taken all the furniture off our deck.”

Hurricane Lee is expected to move into western Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick on Saturday, bringing heavy rains, high winds, and powerful waves, Environment Canada said in an update Friday morning.

Winds could gust up to 120 kilometres an hour, toppling trees and downing power lines, the agency warned. Rainfalls of up to 100 millimetres could cause flooding in parts of southwestern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, including Saint John and Moncton, Environment Canada said. Areas along Nova Scotia’s central Atlantic coast could see breaking waves of between four and six metres.

As of about noon on Friday, Lee appeared to be transitioning from a Category 1 hurricane to a strong post-tropical storm, said Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada. The storm was about 1,000 kilometres southwest of Halifax, and was slowly weakening, with its maximum sustained wind speeds hitting about 130 kilometres per hour, he said.

“But this is a very, very large storm,” he told reporters. “We expect this storm as it approaches, and as it gets close to the coastline, should be very close to hurricane strength.”

The centre of the powerful storm will likely pass over southwestern Nova Scotia some time on Saturday afternoon, bringing Lee’s strongest winds and heaviest rainfall, Robichaud said.

But Lee’s impact is expected to be felt as much as 300 kilometres from the centre, and some parts of Nova Scotia will begin to experience its winds and rains on Friday night, he said.

“The time to prepare is today. Tomorrow will be too late,” he added.

The worst conditions should last about 12 hours, but it could be more than 24 hours — perhaps up to 36 hours — that some areas are coping with rain and high winds, he added.

New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy coast and most of mainland Nova Scotia were under a tropical storm warning Friday morning. A hurricane watch was in place for Grand Manan Island and coastal Charlotte County, N.B., and for the Nova Scotia counties of Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne, and Queens.

Environment Canada issues watches for areas where hurricane-force winds could threaten within 36 hours, according to the agency’s website. A watch does not mean a hurricane is definitely going to hit; it’s a warning to everyone in the area to be prepared to act quickly if it does.

Connor Hanrahan braved the lineups at the busy Atlantic Superstore in Liverpool, N.S., Friday afternoon to stock up on groceries. As he loaded pints of strawberries and bottles of water into the truck of his car, he said he was most concerned about power outages.

“You can’t be too safe, you know?” he said in an interview. “You want to have all your necessities, have your water, have your sliced meats, have some bread.”

Hanrahan is from Halifax, but he’s staying in Port Joli, N.S., along the province’s southwest coast. Being in a coastal area, he said he’s also worried about storm surges, which occur when the powerful, cyclonic winds push water up toward — and sometimes over — the shoreline.

“Luckily, where I’m at, it’s on an inlet, so there is a little protection,” he said.

Bonnie Morse, mayor of the Village of Grand Manan, said preparations are also underway on the island, located in the Bay of Fundy. The Grand Manan council held an emergency preparedness meeting with police and other first responders on Thursday to plan for what may come, Morse said.

The island is used to big storms hitting in the winter when the ground is frozen and the trees are bare. But right now, the ground is saturated from rain in the past few days, she said. And the trees are full and leafy, which means they could more easily knock out power lines if they fall.

“We’re hopeful that this isn’t going to be like Fiona was last year in Nova Scotia,” Morse said in an interview Thursday, referring to the post-tropical storm that hit the region last September. “We’re hopeful that we’ll all come through it OK.”

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs warned residents to have enough food, medicine and other supplies to last them 72 hours. “Do not put yourselves in harm’s way. And caution others, certainly, to do the same,” he said Friday afternoon during a hurricane briefing.

At the Chester Yacht Club, Chandler said members began removing their boats days ago. September is normally a busy month for boaters, she said, but with Lee on the way, the bay is virtually empty.

“Which is a good thing,” she added, smiling.

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