A boater pulls onto a trailer at the Garrison Cove Town Landing on Bailey Island, Thursday, Sept. 14. Many boaters are removing their vessels from the water to avoid the risk of damage from high winds and swells forecast for Saturday, Sept. 16. (Daniel Hoebeke photo)
Harpswell residents are being advised to hunker down and avoid the shoreline Saturday as Hurricane Lee grazes the Maine coast. Lee is expected to bring wind gusts up to 55 miles per hour and swells as high as 18 feet at high tide in Harpswell, according to a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Gray.
The Weather Service has issued a tropical storm warning (downgraded from a hurricane watch), high surf advisory and coastal flooding advisory for the area through Saturday, with weather impacts expected to wind down Saturday night. In all, the storm is expected to last 12 to 18 hours.
While the major weather event is only forecast to deliver 1/4 to 1/2 inch of rainfall in Harpswell, sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph and the area’s already rain-saturated ground could cause downed trees and power outages, said meteorologist Nikki Becker.
“The wind swath on this (hurricane) is pretty wide,” Becker said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “Even into Saturday night, we’re still going to have some pretty strong gusts.”
The hurricane’s biggest anticipated impact will be along the coast, with swells of 5 to 9 feet developing overnight and peaking at 12 to 18 feet at high tide Saturday, around 1 p.m.
The swells are likely to cause coastal flooding, beach erosion and hazardous boating conditions, according to Becker. Coastal residents should take precautions such as evacuating low-lying areas, securing boats and maritime equipment, and preparing for potential flooding and erosion.
Harpswell residents are encouraged to use George J. Mitchell Field for temporary storage of boats and equipment, said Mike Drake, Harpswell’s fire administrator and emergency management director.
Drake said all three Harpswell fire stations will be staffed with extra volunteers and off-duty personnel to respond to any emergency incidents such as downed power lines and trees. In addition, a command center will be set up at the Town Office, on Mountain Road.
Drake advised residents to call 911 if they have an emergency such as a downed power line or tree falling on their home, and to call the nearest fire station if their home is flooding.
He urged residents to prepare ahead of time by charging up phones and readying generators, and issued a reminder never to operate a generator indoors, not even inside a garage, as the fumes can be deadly.
Drake said residents who spot any boats on the water that have broken loose should report them to the town harbor master’s office at 207-833-5771 ext. 106. He asked that they first try to ascertain whether the boat is occupied and to get the registration number if possible.
Drake said signs have been posted at Cliff Trail, Devil’s Back and Giant’s Stairs warning would-be hikers to stay off the trails Saturday.
Saturday’s high temperature in Harpswell is expected to be around 65 degrees, with an overnight low in the high 50s. Becker, the meteorologist, said it will feel significantly cooler because of the high winds.
On Sunday, winds are expected to slow to 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph, with the high temperature in the mid-70s.
Have a comment or news tip? Please contact J. Craig Anderson via email.