Northeast braces for direct hit from Henri

  • This is the most serious hurricane risk in New England in 30 years.
  • Hurricane and storm surge warnings were in effect for portions of Long Island and southern New England.
  • Forecasters said Henri was expected to become a hurricane Saturday.

Tropical Storm Henri continued to barrel north Saturday morning towards a predicted Sunday strike on the northeastern U.S., which was bracing for its first direct hit from a hurricane in years.  

Forecasters said Henri was expected to become a hurricane Saturday, which occurs when a storm’s winds reach 74 mph.

The system, still a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph, is forecast to slam into Long Island or southern New England Sunday afternoon at near hurricane strength, with winds of up to 75 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. 

Threatening to bring damaging winds, as much as 8 inches of rain and up to 5 feet of storm surge, Henri could be the first significant hurricane to affect the region in years.

“This is the most serious hurricane risk in New England in 30 years, since Hurricane Bob in 1991,” AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jon Porter said. Bob was a Category 2 storm that killed at least 17 people.

Hurricane and storm surge warnings were in effect for portions of Long Island and southern New England, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the Hurricane Center said. 

Tropical storm warnings were also issued for much of southern New England, Long Island and southern New York, including New York City itself.

Henri was centered Saturday morning about 195 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and about 555 miles south of Montauk Point, New York. It was moving north at 12 mph. 

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A satellite image shows Tropical Storm Henri moving toward the Northeast coast on Friday, August 20. 2021. Henri is expected to become the first hurricane to affect the New England area in decades.

The weather service warned of the potential for damaging winds and widespread coastal flooding from Henri, and officials in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York cautioned that people could lose power for a week or even longer. 

Authorities urged people to secure their boats, fuel up their vehicles and stock up on canned goods.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday urged people vacationing on the Cape to leave well before Henri hits, and those who planned to start vacations there to delay their plans. “We don’t want people to be stuck in traffic on the Cape Cod bridges when the storm is in full force on Sunday,” he said.

“This storm is extremely worrisome,” said Michael Finkelstein, police chief and emergency management director in East Lyme, Connecticut. “We haven’t been down this road in quite a while and there’s no doubt that we and the rest of New England would have some real difficulties with a direct hit from a hurricane.”

Henri (pronounced ahn-REE) will remain offshore of the mid-Atlantic beaches as it moves northward through Saturday. Even still, beaches from Savannah, Georgia, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, can expect some indirect impacts from the storm, including rough surf and the chance of dangerous rip currents. 

Grace strikes Mexico a second time

Hurricane Grace crossed over Mexico’s Gulf shore as a major Category 3 storm early Saturday, drenching small fishing towns and beach resorts as it made its second landfall in the country in two days.

The storm had lost power while crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula Thursday, swirling through Mexico’s main tourist strip, but it rapidly drew in power from the relatively warm Gulf of Mexico as it moved toward the country’s mainland.

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The Hurricane Center said Grace had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph early Saturday when it made landfall about 30 miles south-southeast of Tuxpan. It was heading west at 10 mph.

Forecasters said Grace would quickly lose strength as it swirled inland over a mountain range carrying its heavy rains toward the heart of the country, including the Mexico City region. Forecasters said it could drop 6 to 12 inches of rain, with more in a few isolated areas – bringing the threat of flash floods, mudslides and urban flooding.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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