Parts of the northeast could begin to feel the effects of Tropical Storm Henri as late as Saturday, as the system is expected to turn into a hurricane by the end of the day as it moves toward the region.
Forecasters said Henri was expected to be at or near hurricane strength when it makes landfall Sunday afternoon, which the hurricane center says could be New York’s Long Island or southern New England — most likely Connecticut.
Storm surge and tides could cause high tides in the New England coast as Henri moves inland, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. Heavy rain and wind can also cause flooding.
Henri bent a little further west than originally expected, and if that trail holds, eastern Long Island would be on the bullseye instead of New England, which hasn’t received a direct hit from a hurricane since Hurricane Bob in 1991, a Category 2 storm that killed at least 17 people.
New York hasn’t had a direct hit from a major hurricane-season storm since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in 2012.
Regardless of the exact landfall, broad impacts were expected across much of the northeast, extending inland to Hartford, Connecticut and Albany, New York, and east to Cape Cod, which teems with tens of thousands of summer tourists. Reflecting Henri’s changing course, a hurricane watch for the Cape was lifted on Saturday, although it remained below tropical storm and storm surge warnings.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker urged people vacationing at the Cape to leave well before Henri hits, and urged those planning to vacation there to delay their plans. .
“We don’t want people getting stuck in traffic on the Cape Cod bridges when the storm is at full strength on Sunday,” he said.
Henri was about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and about 525 miles (845 kilometers) south of Montauk Point, New York on Saturday morning. It was a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph) moving north-northeast at 19 kph.
Governor Ned Lamont warned Connecticut residents to prepare for “shelter” from Sunday afternoon through Monday morning as the state braces for the first possible direct hit from a hurricane in decades.
“This storm is extremely concerning,” said Michael Finkelstein, chief of police and disaster management director in East Lyme, Connecticut. “We haven’t been on this road in a while and there’s no doubt that we and the rest of New England would have real problems with a direct hit from a hurricane.”
The storm surge from the hurricane center between 3 and 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) was possible with Henri from Flushing, New York, to Chatham, Massachusetts; and for portions of the North Shore and South Shore of Long Island.
Rain between 3 and 6 inches (7.5 to 15 centimeters) was expected in the northeast from Sunday through Monday.
The weather service warned of the potential for damaging winds and widespread coastal flooding from Henri, and officials in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York warned people could lose power for a week or even more. Authorities urged people to moor their boats, refuel their vehicles and stock canned goods.
New York state park officials built a wall of sand along the boardwalk at Jones Beach to protect it from rising tides, said George Gorman, the regional director of state parks on Long Island. The wall was built with equipment purchased in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which caused significant damage to beaches that took months to reopen, he said.
The campsites would be closed from Saturday afternoon and remain off limits until Tuesday.
At Safe Harbor Marina on the coast of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Steve Berlo was one of many boaters to get their ships out of the water before the storm.
“It’s rare, but when it happens, you want to make sure you’re ready,” said Berlo, 54. “I have to protect our second home.”
In the Hamptons, the famous playground on the east side of Long Island, officials warned of dangerous rip currents and flooding that are likely to turn streets, like the mansion-lined Dune Road on the Atlantic coast, into lagoons.
Ryan Murphy, the emergency manager for the city of Southampton, said as the storm’s trail continues to develop, “we need to plan as if it were a Category 1 hurricane hitting us.”