Tropical Storm Henri making rare New England landfall
Families and business owners across Connecticut spent the weekend rushing to prepare and fuel up for Henri’s arrival in New England.
Tropical Storm Henri made landfall along the Rhode Island coast packing tropical storm force wind gusts and heavy rain as midday Sunday. AccuWeather meteorologists say that dangerous impacts are already underway for parts of the Northeast.
It's been just over 30 years since a hurricane delivered a direct hit to New England. The last hurricane to make landfall in New England was Hurricane Bob in 1991. Bob came ashore in Rhode Island as a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale on August 19, 1991.
AccuWeather meteorologists are urging those in the path of Henri to hunker down for the storm as the time to complete preparations has passed. Rain spread over southern New England by Sunday morning with winds continuing to batter the region as Henri made landfall early Sunday afternoon.
As of Sunday morning, Connecticut Governor, Ned Lamont, has implemented a travel ban on I-95 for all empty tractor trailers, tandem tractor trailers and motorcycles beginning at 11 a.m. EDT Sunday.
Henri is rated a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes in the United States due to the anticipated rainfall, damaging winds and storm surge set to impact Long Island and New England. As of early Sunday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Tropical Storm Henri has made landfall along the coast of Rhode Island neat Westerly at approximately 12:15 P.M. EDT with estimated sustained winds at 60 mph.
The storm had picked up considerable forward speed on Saturday after chugging along at just 7 mph on Friday. Sunday afternoon Henri began to slow down after landfall, tracking to the north at 12 mph.
The storm had grown somewhat as well since last week, with tropical-storm-force winds extending up to 125 miles out from the center as of Sunday morning. Hurricane-force winds once extended as far out as 60 miles from the center of the storm on Saturday, but this gradually disappeared when Henri was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday morning. Around midweek last week, the storm was much more compact, with tropical-storm-force winds extending only about 80 miles out from the center.
Hurricane warnings were issued by the NHC on Friday afternoon for many areas, including portions of Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Hurricane watches were in effect elsewhere, including southeastern Massachusetts. By Friday evening, tropical storm warnings were issued for much of southern New England, Long Island and southern New York, including New York City.
But, as of early Sunday morning, all hurricane watches and warnings were downgraded to tropical storm watches and warnings after Henri weakened to a tropical storm. Storm surge warnings have been discontinued as of Sunday afternoon while tropical storm warnings remained in effect for coastal areas excluding New York and along the Jersey Shore.
AccuWeather forecasters caution that impacts from Henri will be significant and calls for preparations ahead of the storm to be taken incredibly seriously. Henri is forecast to bring torrential downpours, strong wind gusts and coastal flooding to coastal areas of the Northeast.
The total damage and economic loss from Henri is estimated to be between $8 billion and $12 billion, according to AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers, who pointed to storm surge as the most threatening hazard Henri poses to the Northeast. Myers added that wind damage will also be significant.
“The damage will mainly result from flooding in Connecticut, Rhode Island, parts of New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine," Myers said.
"While the rainfall from Hurricane Henri will not be extraordinary in itself, the effect of the rain will be magnified by the above normal rains that occurred in the Northeast this summer," he added. "Another significant contributor to the damage, especially on Long Island, is from the wind."
Early last week, Henri has tracked slightly farther to the east than initially forecast. Given that, AccuWeather forecasters say the prospect of a rare Long Island landfall is decreasing in possibility.
"Long Island has been spared a direct strike from Henri, as the storm continues to charge northward after it made landfall in Rhode Island Sunday afternoon," AccuWeather Meteorologist Reneé Duff explained.
As AccuWeather accurately predicted, Henri made landfall on the coast of Rhode Island around noon Sunday. AccuWeather forecasters emphasized that this slight eastward shift in Henri's track will not drastically change the storm's overall impacts.
"Residents of Long Island should not let their guard down as there will still be heavy rainfall, coastal flooding and damaging wind gusts as Henri moves northward into southern New England Sunday," Duff cautioned.
"Even though it is a strong tropical storm on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale and a 2 on AccuWeather’s RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes, the area it is impacting is highly populated and there are multi-million-dollar homes on Long Island, particularly in the Hamptons and the south coasts of Rhode Island and Connecticut, and many properties are close to the shore," Myers said. "And, not all of the boats in those areas were lifted out of the water to safety.”
"There will be damage in the affected areas and people should take all the recommended precautions to remain safe, but Henri is not like Sandy in any way, shape or form,” Myers said.
The heaviest rain is likely to fall to the north and west of Henri's exact track. Heavy rain directly from Henri first arrived across Long Island and southern New England early Sunday morning. Heavy rain will continue to spread over portions of New York and northern New England through Monday.
The heaviest rainfall of 4-8 inches with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 18 inches will aim for Long Island, Connecticut, parts of Rhode Island and western Massachusetts.
A secondary area of concern for heavy rain made itself known initially on Saturday evening for parts of New York and New Jersey. AccuWeather forecasters say the interaction between Henri and a surface weather feature already in place led to enhanced rainfall for the area. Parts of the greater New York City metro area picked up widespread rainfall totals of 2-4 inches in just a few hours on Saturday evening, leading to flash flooding issues.
For many New Englanders, Henri will be the first real brush with a near hurricane strength tropical storm in decades -- and maybe ever for some.
"This is the most serious strong tropical storm risks in New England in 30 years, since Hurricane Bob in 1991," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist and Senior Vice President of Weather Content and Forecast Operations Jon Porter said of the looming threat.
Henri's drenching rainfall comes just days after parts of the Northeast were soaked by Tropical Rainstorm Fred.
"Since Fred unloaded several inches of rain, Henri's second dose of heavy, tropical rainfall may trigger flash flooding in the region more easily," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Courtney Travis said.
The already-saturated ground will also be a concern when it comes to Henri's anticipated strong winds.
"In soggy, saturated ground, tree roots can lose their grip in the soil more easily due to the root system being compromised," Duff explained. "As a result, it takes a much lower wind gust to knock over a tree sitting in wet soil as opposed to dry soil."
In addition, trees still have all of their leaves across much of southern New England, which can make them more easily weighed down by heavy rain and more susceptible to broken branches.
Strong winds are also going to be a threat as Henri strikes coastal areas.
Widespread wind gusts of 40-60 mph are forecast to impact areas from Long Island to Maine into Monday. The strongest winds with Henri will likely occur along and just east of the storm's path. Wind gusts upwards of 80 mph with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 90 mph are most likely from eastern Long Island into portions of eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island Sunday, largely in the hours surrounding landfall.
Winds of this magnitude will likely be enough to cause significant damage to trees, which can subsequently cause damage to power lines. AccuWeather forecasters are seriously concerned about the risk for widespread and perhaps prolonged power outages in the wake of Henri and the damage the storm is expected to cause.
On Friday, PSEG Long Island warned in a press release that given the potential intensity of the storm, some resulting outages could last up to seven to 10 days, with the eastern end of Long Island expected to experience the most severe weather and impact.
Henri's arrival in the Northeast will also coincide with a full moon on Sunday. This combination could bring higher tides and more widespread coastal flooding than what could occur during a different lunar phase.
According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Nicole LoBiondo, conditions in cities in eastern Massachusetts, such as Boston and Worcester, will begin to dry up by Monday night, however spotty thunderstorms or showers cannot be entirely ruled out, which she said could hinder the clean-up efforts following Henri.
"High pressure will try to press into New England Tuesday night as Henri dissipates along the Maine coast, drying out much of the region and allowing for clean up efforts to continue," LoBiondo said.
AccuWeather meteorologists began warning that the Atlantic coast, including southern New England, would be at risk for tropical weather impacts this season in the annual fall forecast released in early August.
Interestingly, the weather system that gave rise to Henri started out nearly two weeks ago as a cluster of thunderstorms over the middle of the continental U.S. That weather system raced across the country and headed out to sea over the Atlantic, where on Monday it formed into Tropical Storm Henri near Bermuda.
This satellite image shows Henri on its final approach to southern New England early on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. (Image/ NOAA/ GOES-EAST)
Although Henri did not regain hurricane status it would have been the first hurricane in decades to make landfall in New England. It would have also been only the eighth time a hurricane has struck the region since 1900.
The last hurricane to make landfall in New England was Bob in 1991. Bob made landfalls in Rhode Island and Maine and caused $1.5 billion in damages, roughly $3 billion in today's dollars, in Massachusetts. Winds greater than 100 mph and severe coastal flooding blasted Massachusetts during Bob’s rampage.
Myers’ economic impact estimate is based on an analysis incorporating independent methods to evaluate all direct and indirect impacts of the storm and is based on a variety of sources, statistics, and unique techniques AccuWeather uses to estimate the damage, and includes damage to homes, property and businesses as well as their contents and cars, job and wage losses, infrastructure damage, auxiliary business losses, travel disruption, medical expenses and closures.
The estimate also accounts for the costs of power outages to businesses and individuals, for economic losses because of highway closures and evacuations, emergency management and the extraordinary government expenses for and cleanup operations.
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