August 21, 2021

Hurricane Henri Will Bring Dangerous Winds, Flooding To New England On Sunday


Henri is now a hurricane as it gathers strength in the western Atlantic Ocean. The storm could strengthen a bit more before its final approach to New England on Sunday. This is a dangerous situation for communities in the path of the storm. Here's what you need to know about the storm today.

Henri Strengthened Into A Hurricane On Saturday

Hurricane Henri had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph at the National Hurricane Center's 11:00 a.m. update on Saturday. The system's tropical storm force winds (39+ mph) extend more than 100 miles from the center of the storm.

Source: NOAA
The system is better organized today than it was yesterday. You can almost pick out an eye starting to peek through the clouds on the visible satellite imagery this afternoon.

Forecasters expect Henri to pick up a little more strength on Saturday as it takes advantage of a favorable environment and traverses the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.


Henri is heading north-northeast this afternoon and picking up speed as it interacts with a trough to its west and a ridge to its north. That ridge up north will block the storm from racing northeast out to sea, forcing it to curve into the northeastern United States.

The NHC expects Henri to make landfall at or near hurricane strength on both Long Island and Connecticut on Sunday afternoon, quickly weakening as it pushes inland and turns to the east through early next week.

The storm's anticipated track and slow exit will bring an extended period of dangerous weather to highly populated areas. Henri's wind, rain, and storm surge will extend far away from the center of the storm.

This is likely going to be a high-impact storm for the region.

Widespread Watches And Warnings


A hurricane warning (red) is in effect for:
—Long Island east of Nassau County
—New Haven, Middlesex, and New London Counties in Connecticut
—Washington and Newport Counties in Rhode Island
—Block Island

A tropical storm warning (blue) is in effect for:
—All of New York City
—Nassau County, NY and Westchester County, NY
—Northeastern New Jersey, including Newark and New Brunswick
—All of Connecticut not included in the hurricane warning
—All of Rhode Island not included in the hurricane warning
—Coastal southeast Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the islands.

It's possible that these watches and warnings could adjust a bit east or west if there's a jump in Henri's forecast track, but it's safe to say that everyone in and around these watches and warnings will experience an extended period of dangerous weather beginning on Sunday.

You should be done with your storm preparations and get where you need to be by tonight at the latest.

* * * * *

Note: Beginning with the section below, much of the text here is copied over from my article yesterday, with updated maps and information where needed.

The threats for wind damage, power outages, flash flooding, and storm surge flooding are very high for communities in Henri's path. Please take this storm seriously.

Flash Flooding

Heavy, tropical rainfall will lead to a widespread flash flooding threat across New England as the storm pushes ashore. Henri's slow track inland will allow the storm to produce heavy rainfall for an extended period of time.


The Weather Prediction Center's latest forecast calls for widespread rainfall amounts of 3-5 inches by the end of the storm, with higher totals likely in some locations along Henri's track and at higher elevations.

Heavy rain will lead to widespread flash flooding, especially in urban areas, along waterways, and areas where runoff is exacerbated by local terrain.

Freshwater flooding is the leading cause of death for landfalling tropical cyclones in the United States. It only takes a few inches of moving water to lift a vehicle and carry it downstream.

Never drive across a flooded roadway. It's impossible to tell how deep the water is until it's too late, and sometimes the road is washed away beneath the water.

Winds

The points on the track map only apply to the very center of the storm. Strong winds currently extend more than 100 miles from the center of the storm. This will be a significant wind event for New England.

Sustained hurricane force winds (74+ mph) are possible across communities under hurricane warnings. Higher gusts are possible. Tropical storm force winds (39-73 mph) are possible across a wide area extending from New York City to Cape Cod, and as far inland from the coast as the Berkshires. 

This is going to be stronger than your run-of-the-mill nor'easter. For some areas in New England, this storm will have stronger winds and last longer than all of the nor'easters and tropical systems since at least Hurricane Irene in 2011, if not before then.

Power Outages

Last year, Isaias roared through the northeastern states as a tropical storm and caused millions of power outages that lasted for a week or longer in some communities. This will hit the area as a stronger storm than Isaias.

We're very likely going to see widespread and potentially long-lasting power outages across the affected areas.

Keep physical flashlights and battery replacements on hand. It's important to conserve your cell phone battery during a power outage. You don't want to waste precious charge using your phone's flashlight to find your way to the bathroom, y'know what I mean?

USB recharging packs for smartphones are pretty affordable these days and they're relatively easy to find at most stores. They're totally worth it. They've helped me out a few times during extended power outages.

Make sure you have non-perishable food that doesn't require cooking—stuff like canned ravioli, fruit cups, bread, PB&J, and all that good stuff. Keep some bottled water (or fill up your own containers) for drinking, food prep, and personal hygiene.

It's a good idea to fill up a bathtub with water in the off-chance water service goes out. You'll need it to flush the toilet.

Tree Damage Likely

A sustained period of strong winds will produce widespread tree damage, especially in communities with large and old trees that may not be able to withstand the intensity of a landfalling hurricane.

Please stay mindful of nearby trees and tree limbs.

Downed trees and tree limbs will damage homes—potentially leading to serious injuries and deaths—and make some roads impassable for a time during and after the storm.

If your bedroom (for instance) is located near a wall or roof where a tree could fall during high winds, consider having a slumber party in a safer part of the house to reduce your risk if the worst happens.

Storm Surge

Source: NHC
Storm surge is flooding caused by strong, persistent winds pushing seawater inland along the coast. The effects and depth of storm surge vary greatly depending on wind direction, the shape of the coast, the depth of the water near shore, whether it's high tide or low tide, and how long the winds last.

The highest storm surge usually occurs in the right-front quadrant of the storm, where the winds are the strongest and they're blowing onshore.

Based on Henri's forecast track, this would put the deepest storm surge into southern Long Island, the Long Island Sound, as well as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and their respective islands. These areas could see 3-5 feet of storm surge inundation during the height of the storm.

Elsewhere, a storm surge several feet above ground level is possible during the worst of the storm. This kind of flooding doesn't seem like much, but it would be dangerous and life-threatening for folks near the coast.

This will be not be a repeat of Sandy. A storm doesn't need to go toe-to-toe with Sandy to pose a significant threat to life and property. Please take Henri and its hazards seriously.

Tornadoes


Tornadoes are always a threat when tropical cyclones make landfall. The threat for tornadoes is most common on the right side of a storm relative to its forward motion.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a marginal risk for severe weather across southeastern New England as Henri makes landfall on Sunday. The SPC notes that the threat will be limited by low instability, but a couple of tornadoes are possible in stronger storms in Henri's outer bands. 

Make sure your phone's wireless emergency alerts are activated for tornado warnings.

Updates

The National Hurricane Center releases updates every three hours as long as watches and warnings are in effect. Full forecast packages come out at 5:00 a.m/p.m. and 11:00 a.m./p.m. (EDT), with intermediate updates on the storm's current stats every three hours in between.

Your local National Weather Service office issues local forecasts, watches, and warnings for your location.

The Storm Prediction Center is responsible for issuing daily severe weather outlooks and tornado watches.

The Weather Prediction Center issues excessive rainfall outlooks and precipitation amount forecasts several times a day.


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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

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