Upgraded to a hurricane Saturday, Henri’s destructive winds and intense downpours could start Saturday night before it makes landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on central Long Island or southern New England on Sunday afternoon, experts said.
All of the forecasters’ computers do not agree on the storm’s track, but overall the models are focused in on central Long Island and Rhode Island on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, saying he feared Henri will mirror 2012 Superstorm Sandy — also initially a Category I hurricane — issued an emergency declaration for Long Island, New York City, Westchester, the Hudson Valley and the capital region.
Hopefully, we don’t come anywhere near the damage of Superstorm Sandy, but don’t know, and as I sit here today … none of the experts can tell you whether or not the damage is going to more or less that Superstorm Sanday, Cuomo said.
It depends on how fast the storm moves and where it goes, and we’ll be working around the clock and doing everything to prepare, he said.
Now out in the Atlantic, about 465 miles south of Montauk at 11 a.m., Henri’s approximately 75-mph winds extend 60 miles from the center as it travels north-northeast at almost 14 mph.
That wind speed puts it in the lowest level of the five categories of hurricanes: Henri qualified as a Category 1, with wind speeds from 74 mph to 95 mph. Still, tropical force winds from Henri can be felt 125 miles from its eye, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Sandy, experts say, was so destructive because it moved so slowly and merged with a nor’easter. And, like Henri, there was a full moon, which heightens the flood danger.
Pleading with New Yorkers to leave low-lying areas, Cuomo said he agreed with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who urged all Fire Islanders to head back to the mainland today.
We have short notice, Cuomo said, referring to how the storm’s track has changed in the past day.
We’re talking about tomorrow, so if you have to move, if you have to stock up, if you have to get to higher ground, it has to be today, please, the governor said.
Southampton is weighing whether to advise coastal dwellers in the most vulnerable areas to consider evacuating, though no mandatory order appears likely, said Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. Any guidance likely would be issued Saturday afternoon. I’m not there yet, he said, saying he was most concerned about people who live in the most flood-prone areas on the coast.
People need to pay attention to these storm events, Schneiderman said.
Cuomo vowed not to be distracted by his resignation on Tuesday, or the ongoing transition to the incoming administration of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont declared a state of emergency yesterday.
Cuomo said he had spoken with President Joe Biden, who is prepared to declare a pre-landfall emergency disaster, so local governments will be reimbursed for expenses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency already is sending its teams in, the governor said. The National Guard is deploying 500 troops and the State Police are sending 1,000 workers to areas expected to bear the storm’s brunt.
PSEG Long Island almost doubled its estimate of how long some residents may be without power, saying outages now could last up to two weeks, if the storm keeps intensifying and heading west.
On Friday, the utility’s prediction of seven- to 10-day outages was criticized by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, and on Saturday morning she called those initial estimates unacceptable, and urged PSEG Long Island to call in more workers.
The Port Authority anticipates canceling flights, Cuomo said, adding the MTA likely will cancel rail service east of Ronkonkoma, around midnight tonight.
Bellone earlier warned Fire Islanders to leave the resort island before ferry service stops Saturday night, noting that when service will resume is not yet known.
It is important for residents and visitors to understand that if they do not leave the island today, they will be stuck on the Island and we do not know what kind of conditions they will be facing. But, they could be difficult, they could be dangerous, Bellone said.
Suffolk is shutting campgrounds at dusk, he added, warning widespread power outages are expected.
The latest storm track reveals how the storm — the first to aim for this stretch of coast since 1985’s Hurricane Gloria — has increasingly veered west to an expected landfall on Suffolk’s South Shore; on Friday morning, its path was forecast to keep it 50 to 100 miles off Montauk.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for Long Island’s South Shore, from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk, and on the North Shore, from Port Jefferson Harbor to Montauk.
The main threats from Henri are potentially life-threatening storm surge, heavy rain capable of producing flash flooding, tropical storm or hurricane-force winds along the South Shore and Long Island and across southern Connecticut, the weather service warned.
Rainfall rates could reach half an inch an hour, adding up to 3 to 6 inches — with more in spots — from Saturday to Sunday night. That could trigger flash floods.
Dangerous marine conditions are likely on the ocean waters south of Long Island, as well as on Long Island Sound, and the South Shore and eastern bays of Long Island, the service said, warning to expect hurricane-force winds in those spots.
Storm surge warnings were issued for Long Island’s South and North Shores.
There is potential for life-threatening storm surge along the immediate shore of Long Island, Southern Connecticut, and the Western Sound, the weather service said.
The timeline of impacts looks to be Sunday morning through Sunday evening, with the storm weakening as it moves northward, it added.
Similar warnings and watches have been issued along the coast, north from New York to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Prepare now, officials say
Elected officials, from Cuomo to local leaders, all have urged New Yorkers to prepare now, recommending safety measures from securing anything that might blow away, to checking flashlight batteries, to securing boats and moving cars in coastal communities to higher ground.
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management said by email it was closely monitoring Henri and the potential impacts it may have on the city.
While state parks are open, Lifeguards will be monitoring beachfront surf conditions and will implement restricted swimming if surf becomes rough, and dangerous rip currents form, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservaton said in a statement.
Swimming already has been halted at Babylon’s Robert Moses, and Montauk’s Hither Hills State Park.
A Town of Islip spokeswoman said by text: We’re in good shape. All equipment is ready. We’re advising residents to check on their boats, remove any objects from decks, yards, patios that could become projectiles in high winds.
Hurricane #Henri continues to track west and is anticipated to make landfall tomorrow on Long Island. We will continue to closely monitor the situation, but residents should start preparing for power outages and coastal flooding. Our crews will be working around the clock, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran tweeted Saturday morning.