Hurricane Henri expected to strike New England this weekend

Hurricane Henri expected to strike New England this weekend

The good news about Tropical Storm Henri on Saturday morning is that it’s still Tropical Storm Henri. That it, it has not not yet found enough energy to become a hurricane. However, the National Hurricane Center indicates that the storm is just beginning the push that will see it become Hurricane Henri as it heads toward New England. 

In terms of hurricanes, Henri is expected to remain a Category 1 storm, with maximum sustained winds around 80 mph. So it doesn’t seem set to repeat the kind of destruction generated by something like the 1938 New England hurricane, which made landfall as a Category 3. And while “Superstorm” Sandy was only a Category 2 storm, that storm was one of the geographically largest in history after making a merger with another storm front and spreading out across over 1,100 miles.

Henri is not going to be super powerful. It’s not going to be super huge. However, it does appear to be taking dead aim at an area that rarely takes hurricanes head-on—an area that, unlike south Florida, doesn’t require structures to be built to face such storms—so the damage and disruption generated by the storm could be disproportional to the story that might be told by the statistics. 

Tropical storm force winds may be see in parts of Maryland and eastern Virginia by early afternoon. By late Saturday evening, portions of the New England coast from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts will be seeing a potentially dangerous storm surge pushed ahead of Henri. By Sunday, hurricane force winds are expected to cross Long Island and plunge into Connecticut. And really, the best news may be that this storm is fast … in another way.

Tropical Storm Henri is currently moving to the north-northwest at almost 20 mph. That’s a relatively brisk pace for a storm. Recently, the U.S. and Caribbean have seen several hurricanes where damage has been increased because the forward speed of the storm itself was very low. In 2019, Hurricane Dorian literally parked over Grand Bahama for a day, scouring the island with wind and whipping up enormous waves. In 2020, Hurricane Sally crept across the Gulf of Mexico at 2 mph, and kept up that pace until hours after making landfall. That snail’s pace helped make storms like Dorian and Sally much more destructive than their ratings on the Saffir–Simpson scale might indicate, largely because they generated so much localized rain and flooding. It’s one thing for structures to stand up to a passing storm, and quite another when they have to live there for a day or more.

Models of the climate crisis indicate that such large, slow-moving storms are becoming increasingly likely as the world’s oceans warm. However, Henri isn’t following that pattern. 

On Saturday morning, Tropical Storm Henri is still off the coast of South Carolina. Over the daylight hours of Saturday, the storm is expected to cross over the line and become a hurricane, but it’s forward speed will remain unchecked. Sunday morning should find what’s expected to be Hurricane Henri about 100 miles off the Jersey Shore, and sometime on Sunday the storm is expected to cross Long Island. By Monday morning, the storm should be well inland and on its way to dissipating. 

However, just because it’s going to pass by quickly, doesn’t mean there isn’t danger. Henri still brings the potential for heavy rains, localized flooding, and damaging surge. 

Forecast track for Tropical Storm Henri

Saturday, Aug 21, 2021 · 3:16:40 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Henri is now officially Hurricane Henri. 

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