Climate ChangeDisasterNorth America

Hurricane watch issued for parts of Maine as already rain-soaked New England braces for Lee

Heavy rainfall has flooded parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island as water poured into homes, creating moats around their foundations, and stranded drivers. (Sept. 12) (AP Video: Rodrique Ngowi)

LEOMINSTER, Mass. (AP) — Hurricane Lee barreled north toward New England on Wednesday and threatened to unleash violent storms on the region just as communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island dealt with tornado warnings and a second-straight day of heavy rain that opened up sinkholes and brought devastating flooding to several communities.

Late Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for portions of Maine. A tropical storm watch also was issued for a large area of coastal New England from parts of Rhode Island to Stonington, Maine, including Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday it’s looking into reports of strong winds that toppled trees and knocked down power lines in Rhode Island and Connecticut but is unable to say whether they were the result of tornadoes. Rob Megnia, a meteorologist with the weather service, said they have received reports of about 20 trees down in Killingly, Connecticut, and trees and power lines down in Foster, Rhode Island.

Emergency sirens could be heard late Wednesday afternoon in parts of Providence, Rhode Island, as cell phones pinged with a tornado warning. By early evening, the weather service said a severe thunderstorm capable of producing tornadoes was moving quickly east toward the Massachusetts border, from Cumberland, Rhode Island. The weather service also issued a flash flood warning for parts of Connecticut until 9:45 p.m.

In North Attleborough, which was hit by heavy flooding Monday night, Sean Pope was watching the forecast with unease.

Late Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey issued a state of emergency following the “catastrophic flash flooding and property damage” in two counties and other communities. The 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain over six hours earlier in the week was a “200-year event,” said Matthew Belk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boston.

Healey said Wednesday that while there aren’t plans to call up the National Guard, the state’s emergency management agency is keeping a close eye on the weather and is prepared to offer assistance.

The rain created several sinkholes in Leominster, Massachusetts, including one at a dealership where several cars were swallowed up. In Providence, Rhode Island, downpours flooded a parking lot and parts of a shopping mall. Firefighters used inflatable boats to rescue more than two dozen people stranded in cars.

Parking lots at several businesses briefly became lakes in Leominster and North Attleborough, and many front yards were still partially covered in water. The sounds of generators filled the air in many neighborhoods, as residents worked to remove water from their basements

By Associated Press

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