News Feature

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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 21, 2023 and The Weekly Packet, September 21, 2023
Atlantic storm Lee darkens eastern Maine
95,000 outages across the state, over 10,000 in Hancock County

Billings Diesel & Marine in Stonington

As Lee approached the Maine coastline, marinas like Billings Diesel & Marine in Stonington started hauling out fishing vessels and yachts alike. Yard Manager Peter Grindle said he isn’t quite sure just how many boats they pulled out in the days leading up to the storm, but he does know they “got everyone out who wanted to come out; no one had to be cut off.”

Photo by Will Robinson Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Will Robinson

By the time Hurricane Lee made landfall in Nova Scotia on Sunday, September 16, it had weakened to the point of being designated a “post tropical cyclone” by the National Weather Service. While not a hurricane or even a tropical storm, NWS meteorologist Louise Fode said the combination of rain, wind and the season caused over 95,000 power outages across the eastern end of the state.

As far as wind speed goes, Fode said Lee rated “more like a strong nor’easter,” with the highest recorded speed clocked at 62 mph.

“It wasn’t a super windy storm,” she said. “Where we saw the most impact was in the amount of rainfall.”

According to Fode’s preliminary data, which she said is still being gathered for a “post storm report,” Washington County got between five and six inches of rain and Hancock County between two and four inches.

What makes this amount of rain so significant, she said, is that just two days prior it rained in those areas, saturating the ground before Lee even arrived. Fode thinks the soggy earth, plus the fact that the trees still had leaves, made for an increased number of power outages, despite the lower wind speeds.

“We are used to strong winds here in Maine, but they usually come in winter when the trees are bare,” she said.

Generally speaking, Fode said Lee “matched up to our expectations,” the most uncertainty being the effect from storm surge and waves. In that regard, Fode said Maine “got a little lucky,” with the northerly winds pushing against the southerly waves, making less erosion than expected.

Fode said the National Weather Service is expected to release Lee’s post-storm summary five to seven days after the storm.

Local outages

According to a press release from Versant Power, Hancock County experienced more than 10,000 outages as a result of the storm. Communications Specialist Tina Morrill said Versant crews worked “through the night” on Saturday and Sunday to restore power. A media release dated Friday, September 15, said Versant “increased staffing and secured 100 line crews as well as additional tree crews to help with storm restoration.”

Morrill said most of the outages were caused by downed trees, referencing the fact that the trees blow over easier when they still have leaves. In a press release from Monday, September 18, Versant stated, “Over 95% of customers affected since the height of the storm have been restored.” Hancock County outages, it said, were expected to be fully restored by the end of the day on Tuesday, September 19.