BOSTON (CBS) – This could be the one. New England has managed to dodge a direct hit from a hurricane for 30 years (dating back to Hurricane Bob in 1991), may our luck may have run out?
At this hour, Tropical Storm Henri is located about 720 miles south of Montauk Point, Long Island with maximum sustained winds of 70mph, just shy of hurricane strength.
It is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane on tonight as it makes its move northward towards New England.
Hurricane watches have already been issued for the entire South Coast of Massachusetts including Cape Cod and the Islands as well as all of southern Rhode Island and parts of southern Connecticut and Long Island.
Current projections have Henri making landfall somewhere between eastern Long Island, NY and Newport, RI as a strong tropical storm Sunday afternoon/evening.
It is important not to focus on the center line forecast just yet but instead, the entire forecast cone as there is still some time for wiggle room in the final forecast track.
That cone currently extends as far west as western Long Island, NY and as far east as Nantucket (actually slightly east of the Island). Most of the models suggest a landfall close to the center of that cone, but there is still enough time for a 50-to-100 mile + shift in track, and of course, that will have HUGE implications.
Check: Tropical Storm Henri Path
In general, the strongest winds are found to the east of the center track and the heaviest rainfall to the west of the center track.
Henri is not going to be your typical New England hurricane/tropical storm though (if there is such a thing). Most times hurricanes fly through our area with rapid speed, all the “big ones” did so (Hurricane of ’38, Carol, Diane, Gloria, Bob etc.). Henri is going to slow down upon arrival (the opposite of what is typical), and likely spin itself out over the course of a few days in our region. While this may mean slightly less wind at the peak of the storm (typically you would add the storms max winds with the forward speed to get the strongest gusts), it will almost certainly mean a higher risk of inland flooding.
Given the near record summer of rain we have already had, New England is in no condition to absorb days of rain from a tropical system.
Still to be determined:
Very important where the center of the storm makes landfall, those within 50-to-100 miles of the center will certainly feel the greatest impact
- How much Henri strengthens in the next 48 hours:
Henri will be moving into an area more favorable for development and intensification later Friday and Saturday. Thus far it has been unable to reach hurricane status due mainly to wind shear, that should change as it starts its move northward
- How much the cooler ocean near New England will degrade Henri right before landfall:
While the ocean surrounding New England is unusually warm this year, it is still cooler than what a tropical system likes and needs (typically 80 degrees or higher). Given that Henri is likely to slow down before landfall, it will be over cooler waters for a decent amount of time and that will likely have some weakening effect – but how much? Current forecasts show enough weakening just before landfall to degrade Henri from a minimal hurricane to a strong tropical storm.
As I mentioned, the strongest winds are always to the east of the storm’s center, with the current forecast, the greatest winds would be along the South Coast of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Cape Cod and the Islands. Residents in those locations should prepare for the worst, sustained tropical storm-force winds (39 mph+) over several hours with some gusts nearing hurricane-force (74 mph+).
I am guessing most of you have never lived through or experienced winds this strong for a long duration – don’t take this forecast lightly. Prepare for the worst. Secure all loose objects, boats, etc. Farther inland, say about 10-to-20 miles away from the coast, residents should be prepared for tropical storm-force wind gusts. This will still be hugely impactful to trees, power lines, roofs, etc.
Again, the final track and intensity is KEY to the wind forecast and implications.
Again, as mentioned earlier, the heaviest rain is typically to the west of the storm’s center track. With the current forecast the heaviest rain would be focused in central and western Massachusetts. However, given the slow movement of the storm, our entire area will be under the gun for periods of very heavy rain, torrential downpours and inland flooding. Tropical systems have been known to produce copious rainfall amounts, 5-to-10 inches of rain is well within reason in some areas.
Put this on top of our near record rainfall this summer already and you have a recipe for widespread flash flooding and river flooding (particularly small streams).
This is currently our greatest concern with this storm.
If you have a basement or backyard that is prone to flooding, be ready! Some roads could be cutoff for prolonged periods of time so make sure you have supplies if you live in a flood prone area!
Tides are astronomically high this weekend. The greatest risk for coastal flooding is highly dependent on track. However, anyone with coastal interests or homes on the coast should begin preparations now. Given the current forecast, the greatest risk appears to be the eastern Massachusetts coast, Cape Cod and the Islands.
Storm surge is also a concern especially if the storm arrives along with high tide (Sunday at midnight). Wave heights could easily reach 10-to-25 feet just offshore and large swells will continue for days after landfall.
Currently, landfall is projected closer to low tide which may save portions of the coastline from the worst case scenario. Again, time will tell.
This has the potential to be an historic event for New England.
Some folks will likely experience conditions (rain and wind) unlike they have ever dealt with in their lives. Again, it has been 30 years since our last landfalling hurricane. Whether it comes ashore as a tropical storm or hurricane, this will still be a formidable storm. Don’t take this lightly.
Stay tuned to updates all weekend. The time to prepare is now!
Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ