Gusty winds, high seas in store for weekend as Lee passes

By: - September 15, 2023 4:43 pm

Outer bands of Hurricane Lee were approaching southeastern New England Friday afternoon, though Rhode Island will escape the brunt of what remains a large and powerful storm. (NOAA —

CRANSTON — Rhode Island will be spared the full brunt of Hurricane Lee, but state officials were preparing for the arrival of winds approaching 40 miles per hour, increased rip tides, and choppy seas.

“Rhode Islanders should know the state is prepared,” Gov. Dan McKee said during a press conference at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) Friday morning after the National Hurricane Center canceled a Tropical Storm Watch for the state. (A Tropical Storm Warning remains in place for Westport, Massachusetts, northward to the Canadian border and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.)

The press conference came a day after McKee met with officials from Rhode Island’s 39 municipalities in Cranston to discuss emergency plan.

“We’re smiling when we don’t have to deal with weather patterns that consistently put us at risk,” said Gov. Dan McKee to assembled press during a press conference at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) Friday morning. “The latest models show we’ll be spared the brunt of the storm.”

Ahead of Hurricane Lee’s expected brush with southern New England, Gov. Dan McKee speaks to the news media at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Cranston Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos is at right. (Kevin G. Andrade/Rhode Island Current)

As of 5 p.m., Hurricane Lee was located 290 miles south-southeast of Nantucket and 490 miles south-southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Maximum sustained winds of 80 mph were recorded.

According to forecasts from the National Weather Service (NWS), rain is expected be light for Rhode Island, with some rain hitting the southern coasts and eastern portions of the state late Friday night.

“Honestly, if you do see rain, it’ll be tomorrow morning,” said Bill Leatham, an NWS meteorologist in Norton, Massachusetts. “It’s maybe an isolated shower or too.”

The storm surge around Rhode Island’s coasts was expected to be up to 3 feet according to a tweet from the National Hurricane Center Friday morning. A high surf advisory from the National Weather Service remains in effect for Washington and Newport counties along with southern Bristol and Plymouth counties in Massachusetts until 8 a.m. Sunday.

“This is not the time to go to the beach,” said Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos in Spanish during the press conference. “Please, do not put your life at risk.”

RIEMA Director Marc Pappas said the agency will continue to monitor the storm’s track and conditions and is prepared to jump into action should conditions take a turn for the worse.

Head of External Affairs for Rhode Island Energy Brian Schuster said over 2,000 workers were on standby over the weekend to handle any power outages. He added they will open one primary operating center at the company’s headquarters in Providence Friday afternoon.

“We’re able to decentralize that if necessary,” Schuster said, adding Rhode Island Energy had a number of secondary locations throughout Rhode Island in mind.


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Kevin G. Andrade
Kevin G. Andrade

Kevin G. Andrade previously covered education, housing and human services for Rhode Island Current.