BOSTON (CBS) – This could be it. New England managed to dodge a direct hit from a hurricane for 30 years (dating back to Hurricane Bob in 1991), are we running out of luck?
At this hour, Tropical Storm Henri is about 745 miles south of Montauk Point, Long Island with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.
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It is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane Saturday as it moves north toward New England.
Hurricane watches have already been issued for the entire southern 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 forecasts say Henri will make landfall at the Rhode Island-Connecticut border around 8 p.m. Sunday night as a strong tropical storm
It is important not to focus on the centerline prediction yet, but instead on the entire prediction cone, as there is still some time for wiggle room in the final prediction 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 models suggest a landfall close to the center of that cone, but there is still plenty of time for a 50 to 100 mile+ shift in the track, and that will of course have HUGE implications.
account: Tropical Storm Henri Path
In general, the strongest winds are found east of the middle lane and the heaviest rainfall west of the middle lane.
However, Henri won’t be your typical New England hurricane/tropical storm (if such a thing exists). Usually hurricanes fly through our area at high speed, all the “big ones” did (hurricane of ’38, Carol, Diane, Gloria, Bob etc). Henri will slow down on arrival (the opposite of what is typical), probably turning out in our area over the course of a few days. While this may mean slightly less wind at the height of the storm (usually you would add the storm max winds with the forward speed to get the strongest gusts), it almost certainly means a higher risk of flooding inland.
Given the near-record summer of rain we’ve already had, New England is unable to absorb days of rain from a tropical system.
To be defined:
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 move to an area more favorable for development and intensification later Friday and Saturday. So far, it has been unable to achieve hurricane status, mainly due to wind shear, which should change as it begins to move north.
- How much the cooler ocean near New England Henri will degrade just before landfall:
Although the ocean around New England is unusually warm this year, it is still cooler than what a tropical system likes and needs (usually 80 degrees or higher). Since Henri will likely slow down before making landfall, it will be over cooler waters for quite some time and that will likely have a weakening effect – but how much? Current forecasts show enough weakening just before landfall to degrade Henri from a minor hurricane to a strong tropical storm.
As I mentioned, the strongest winds are always east of the center of the storm, with the current forecast the strongest 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 winds (39 mph+) for several hours with some gusts approaching hurricane-force winds (74 mph+).
I suspect most of you have never experienced such a strong wind or experienced such a long time – don’t take this prediction lightly. Prepare for the worst. Secure all loose objects, boats, etc. Further inland, say about 10 to 20 miles from shore, residents should be prepared for tropical storm-force winds. This will still have a huge impact on trees, power lines, roofs, etc.
Again, the final track and intensity is KEY to the wind forecast and implications.
Again, as previously mentioned, the heaviest rain usually falls west of the storm’s center track. With the current forecast, the heaviest rain would be concentrated in central and western Massachusetts. However, given the storm’s slow movement, our entire area will be under fire during periods of very heavy rainfall, torrential downpours and inland flooding. Tropical systems are known to produce large amounts of rain, In some areas, 5 to 10 inches of rain is within reasonable limits.
Put this on top of our near-record rainfall this summer and you’ve got a recipe for widespread flash flooding and river flooding (particularly small streams).
This is our main concern right now with this storm.
If you have a basement or backyard that is prone to flooding, be prepared! Some roads may be closed for extended periods, so make sure you have supplies if you live in a flood prone area!
The tide is astronomically high this weekend. The greatest risk of flooding along the coast is heavily dependent on rail. However, anyone with coastal interests or homes on the coast should start preparing now. Given the current forecast, the greatest risk appears to be the east coast of Massachusetts, 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 can easily reach 10 to 25 feet just offshore, and large swells will persist for days after landfall.
Currently, the landfall is projected closer to low tide, which could save parts of the coastline from the worst-case scenario. Again, time will tell.
This has the potential to become a historic event for New England.
Some people are likely to experience conditions (rain and wind) that they have experienced at some point in their lives. Again, it’s been 30 years since our last hurricane made landfall. Whether it makes landfall as a tropical storm or hurricane, this will still be a formidable storm. Don’t take this lightly.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the weekend. The time to prepare is now!
Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ