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‘Rapid weakening’ of Tropical Storm Henri expected as it moves over southern New England

Update (Sunday 2 p.m.): Southold Town announced the two evacuation shelters in Peconic and Orient have been closed as the center of Tropical Storm Henri has now passed to the east of Long Island.

The storm was slowing down over southwestern Rhode Island as strong gusty winds and flooding rainfall continue across portions of the Northeast, the National Hurricane Center reported in its 2 p.m. release.

The storm now has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph as it moves at about 9 mph in a northwest direction. All storm surge warnings have been discontinued as of 2 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

“On the forecast track, Henri is expected to slow down further and possibly stall near the Connecticut-New York border tonight, with an east-northeastward motion across northern Connecticut and southern Massachusetts on expected on Monday,” the NWS said.

A rapid weakening is expected now that Henri is moving inland over southern New England.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in an interview with MSNBC that effects of the storm “will be with us for a while.”

“We still have an astronomical high tide that we have to go through later today,” he said.

The center of the storm shown over Rhode Island at 2 p.m. The storm will shift west before turning back east. (Credit: National Hurricane Center)

Update (Sunday, 12:50 p.m.): Fishers Island found itself nearly in the direct line of Tropical Storm Henri Sunday.

Steve Head, superintendent of utilities on Fishers Island, said power to the island was cut at 10 a.m. as a proactive move in case a transformer blew.

“We had anticipated trees coming down and pulling lines down and we didn’t want there to be a problem with the power,” he said.

He said things were looking better this afternoon as things calm down.

“We are out now doing a damage assessment,” he said.

Crews are doing that assessment east to west on the island to make sure no trees are on lines before the power is turned back on, he said.

“We are fortunate the hit here about 10 a.m instead of 8 a.m. when the tide was the highest,” Mr. Head said. “That was good fortune.”

John Bergquist, Emergency Management director on Fishers Island, said the island dodged the worst.

“We are good right now,” he said. “A few trees are down, but nothing bad.”

He said crews are out clearing road.

“The storm just this morning looked like it was going to pass right over us, but it went north and east,” he said. “We lucked out.”

He said the storm surge was no more than one foot above normal.

The National Hurricane Center reported Henri made landfall near Westerly, Rhode Island.

Update (Sunday, 12:30 p.m.): Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county is now in the peak of Tropical Storm Henri and officials remain vigilant as the storm so far spares much of the area any significant damage.

“The storm is not done,” he said. “There’s a lot more to come. This is a long storm and it’s a big storm. But I have to say we feel good about where we are right now.”

The center of the storm was about 10 miles east of Montauk Point with sustained winds of 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service’s update at 12:22 p.m. The storm is tracking north-northwest at 12 mph.

“On this track the center of Henri will likely make landfall close to the Connecticut-Rhode Island border early this afternoon, and then track farther north into southern New England through Monday while weakening,” the NWS said.

Mr. Bellone said flooding has been moderate so far, but noted there is another high tide cycle still to come later tonight. The impacts of heavy rain and storm surge remain a concern, he said.

“You’re still looking at sustained winds on the East End, 30 to 40 mph, maybe higher,” he said. “Gusts 50-60 mph.”

Effects of the storm are expected to remain through Monday morning.

Mr. Bellone said about 20 families have utilized the county’s shelters that are operated with the American Red Cross.

Update (Sunday, 10:30 a.m.): Tropical Storm Henri will pass Long Island close to Montauk Point late this morning and then track through southern New England through Monday while weakening, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm, so far, appears to be sparing the North Fork any damage, although the threat for storm surge and heavy rain remain a high concern.

With most businesses closed, areas in Greenport Village and downtown Riverhead were largely empty Sunday morning. Roads in Southold Town were all passable as of 10:30 a.m., according to Highway Superintendent Vincent Orlando.

At a media briefing Sunday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Henri is projected to hit Long Island at around 11 a.m. just east of Montauk.

“It then actually bends west again, which is the less good news for us,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo said President Biden authorized FEMA to approve the state’s pre-landfall emergency declaration. That allows for federal reimbursement for preparatory work currently being done, as opposed to just what happens after the storm.

“We’ve moved equipment from as far away as Buffalo down to Long Island,” the governor said. “When we have a situation like this, we go into what we call flex mode where the area of the state that is affected, we flex all the equipment and personnel to that area. That is all very expensive.”

LIRR service remains suspended between Ronkonkoma and Greenport.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is expected to provide an update around 11:30 a.m.

Update (Sunday, 9 a.m.): Southold Town announced two shelters have opened for any residents needing to evacuate. The Southold Community Center on Peconic Lane in Peconic and Oysterponds School on Route 25 in Orient are both open.

High tides are expected to be around 11 a.m., and residents should be aware of local flooding conditions, Southold Town police said in an advisory.

Update (Sunday, 8:30 a.m.): As Tropical Storm Henri moves closer to making landfall, the hurricane warning for the East End has now been downgraded to a tropical storm warning, according to the National Weather Service.

The latest warning issued at 8:19 a.m. says peak winds could be 35-45 mph with gusts up to 70 mph. Tropical storm force winds could remain into early Monday morning.

There remains a potential of 2-4 feet of storm surge. A flood watch also remains in effect with 3-6 inches of rain expected. Heavy rain was already begin to batter the area early Sunday morning.

The hurricane’s path appears to have it set to make landfall in New England, rather than the East End of Long Island, although the National Hurricane Center noted a shift could still be possible.

No major power outages were reported on the North Fork as of 8:30 a.m., according to PSEG Long Island.

The storm is about 35 miles southeast of Montauk Point.

Update (Sunday, 7 a.m.): Henri has been downgraded to a tropical storm, the National Hurricane Center announced in its 7 a.m. update. It is still about 50 miles southeast of Montauk.

An advisory from the Town of Riverhead said to expect sustained winds up to 40 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph.

The latest projection at 8 a.m. shows the storm tracking just east of Long Island. (Credit: National Hurricane Center)

Update (Sunday, 6:30 a.m.): As the path of Hurricane Henri shifts to the east, a hurricane warning remains in effect across the North Fork.

A 5 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center suggested the hurricane could miss Long Island or spare most of it from the worst, but the entire East End will certainly be impacted by the heavy rain that has already begun, winds that will pick up throughout the morning and afternoon and storm surges combined with an astronomical high tide.

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” County Executive Steve Bellone said in a 6 a.m. interview with MSNBC. “We know that these storms shift. We saw a little bit of a shift in the storm last night, moving to the east. But we saw this with Sandy and we’ve seen this with other nor’easters, you know things can shift back very quickly, it is always better to be safe if you’re in one of those low-lying areas.”

Joining the county executive in the interview was Southampton Town emergency management coordinator Ryan Murphy, who said he’s still “very concerned about Flanders Bay.”

As of 6 a.m., the storm was 65 miles southeast of Montauk and moving at 18 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. Maximum sustained winds remain at 75 miles per hour.

The National Weather Service is scheduled to provide its next comprehensive storm update at 8 a.m.

Update (Saturday, 8 p.m.): Hurricane Henri, located about 255 miles south of Montauk Point as of 8 p.m. Saturday, continued its trek north and remains on target to hit the East End of Long Island at or near hurricane strength, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center of the storm and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles. The storm is expected to strengthen tonight and some weakening is expected prior to landfall on Sunday.

A hurricane warning, storm surge warning and flood watch remain in effect for the entire East End.

The track of the storm shifted slightly east from earlier in the day and is now on line to cross around East Hampton Town. An earlier projection showed a line with the storm passing directly around Riverhead Town.

Rain is expected overnight and wind gusts could reach 32 mph before the tropical storm conditions begin Sunday morning.

Earlier Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Suffolk County among several others.

Update (Saturday, 3 p.m.): Henri is now a Hurricane, as it continues to make its way toward Long Island.

The change in status has not altered projections from this morning with sustained winds as strong as 75 mph still projected and a life-threatening storm surge anticipated. The East End continues to appear as the most likely location for the hurricane to make landfall.

The agency said the time to complete storm preparations is now.

• Tropical storm force winds could be felt as early as 2 a.m. Sunday on Long Island, building throughout the day and into the early afternoon when the hurricane is expected to make landfall.

• PSEG-Long Island said more than 3,300 line workers and tree trimmers are being procured in advance of the storm. They are warning that restoration times could be as long as seven to 100 days and as much as two weeks if the storm ends up tracking further west causing more damage across Long Island.

• Southold Town announced its Transfer Station in Cutchogue will not open Sunday.

Update (Saturday, 12:45 p.m.): Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said it is becoming “increasingly likely” that Tropical Storm Henri will deliver a direct hit to Suffolk County.

Mr. Bellone provided an update to the storm Saturday afternoon in Bay Shore, where he again urged residents to prepare for high winds, potential outages and flooding when the storm makes landfall as potentially a Category 1 hurricane Sunday.

“This storm is bearing down on Long Island as we speak,” he said. “And it looks like more and more specifically on Suffolk County. We don’t know what the exact track will be, but the closer we get to this storm as each hour passes, it becomes clearer that there will be a significant impact here in Suffolk County.”

The county executive issued a voluntary evacuation order for Fire Island. Riverhead High School will be one of five schools in the county opened as a shelter for anyone who needs to evacuate, Mr. Bellone said.

He said whether the storm makes landfall as a strong tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane, there will be dangerous conditions either way.

“This storm is significant and potentially dangerous,” he said, noting specifically the concern for flooding with a storm surge expected as high as 5 feet.

He said Cross Sound Ferry is operating as normal today but will be canceled tomorrow as will as the ferries to and from Fire Island. He cautioned it’s unclear when ferry service could resume if infrastructure is damaged in the storm. County bus service is also canceled Sunday. County parks east of Shirley, including Indian Island in Riverhead, are closed as of dusk Saturday.

In a statement Saturday afternoon, Michael Sullivan, the senior director of Transmission & Distribution at PSEG Long Island, said if the storm continues to strengthen and moves farther west, restoration could take up to 14 days. PSEG had already said restoration could take up to 7-10 days.

“We are prepared for hurricane force winds and are informing customers to help set expectations about the storm’s potential so that they can also prepare,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also expected to provide an update Saturday afternoon.

Update ( Saturday, 8 a.m.): Tropical Storm Henri has continued to pick up speed as it makes its way to Long Island, where confidence is building that the storm will make landfall Sunday with destructive winds and a life-threatening storm surge, the National Weather Service said in its morning briefing Saturday.

It is expected to make landfall over the East End as a Category 1 hurricane early Sunday afternoon.

The NWS is now predicting 75 mile per hour sustained winds for Eastern Long Island with gusts up to 100 mph. It would be the first landfall hurricane to strike the area since Gloria in 1985.

Extensive wind damage is expected, including the uprooting of trees, power lines and poles, the agency said, and damage to roofs and siding with significant damage to mobile homes. Tropical storm winds are expected to be felt as early as Sunday morning.

The East End is also facing the biggest threat of storm surges with 3 to 5 feet of flooding possible. The times of greatest concern are the high tides Sunday morning and night. For Riverhead that’s around 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. In Greenport, the other downtown with recent flooding incidents, it will be about two hours later, according to online tide charts.

While dangerous surf is often associated with the South Shore, experts are predicting seas as high as seven feet on the eastern part of Long Island Sound.

Rainfall totals could also cause flash flooding, the NWS said, building to as much as 7 inches with rainfall projections of a half-inch per hour.

The storm is expected to weaken by Sunday evening.

Update (Friday, 5:30 p.m.): A hurricane warning has now been issued for the northeast portion of Suffolk County as Tropical Storm Henri takes aim at the twin forks.

The latest forecast track by the National Hurricane Center shows the storm passing directly over the middle of the South and North forks.

The storm continues to strengthen and “is expected to become a hurricane tonight or Saturday and be at or near hurricane strength when it makes landfall in Long Island or southern New England,” a National Weather Service advisory says.

Winds are now projected to range from 40-60 mph with gusts up to 75 mph, with the chance to be equivalent to a Category 1 or 2 hurricane. The tropical storm winds are likely to begin early Sunday morning and last until early Monday morning, the latest advisory from the NWS said.

A hurricane warning means hurricane-force winds are expected in the area within the next 36 hours.

A storm surge also remains a threat with the potential for 2-4 feet above ground within surge prone areas, the NWS said. The NWS has also issued a storm surge warning, which means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline.

Peak rainfall has also projected to increase and now ranges from 3-6 inches.

Original Story: A hurricane watch is in effect for Suffolk County and County Executive Steve Bellone said he anticipates it being upgraded to a Hurricane Warning as the storm dubbed Henri strengthens and gets closer to Long Island.

The storm, according to the National Weather Service, is tracking about 30 to 50 miles east of Montauk Point, closer to land than previously anticipated. The impacts would be mostly felt on Sunday, officials said.

“The storm is expected to hit our region and the Island on late Saturday night, but the primary impact’s on Sunday,” Mr. Bellone said in a media briefing in Commack Friday. “[Meteorologists] have said this is a difficult storm to predict.

“Since yesterday the track of the storm has shifted … we need to see if it continues to inch closer,” he said.

An 11 a.m. update from the National Weather Service said tropical wind storms of 40 to 50 mph with gusts as strong as 65 mph are currently forecast, but there’s the potential for much stronger hurricane force winds. Mr. Bellone said the county is preparing for winds between 75 and 90 mph and the potential for a significant number of power outages is “one of our major concerns.”

A briefing from the National Weather Service Thursday evening said the chance for more severe winds exists for the “twin forks of Long Island.”

It is also likely the region will see coastal flooding and a storm surge watch is in effect. A full moon means an astronomical high tide was already going to occur before the storm, Mr. Bellone noted. The NWS said flooding up to four feet above ground could occur in the most inundated areas and the county executive said that prediction could grow to as much as 5 feet.

As for timing, the rain and strong winds are likely to begin around 4 a.m. Sunday and strengthen in the afternoon hours, passing by Monday morning.

PSEG Long Island on Friday afternoon cautioned that outages could last up to seven to 10 days, “given the potential intensity of the storm.”

“The eastern end of Long Island is expected to experience the most severe weather and impact,” the update from PSEG said.

PSEG is working to add an additional 1,200 line workers, tree trimmers, surveyors and other utility personnel to work alongside its current staff.

Storm safety tips from PSEG can be found here. Outages can be monitored here.

This is a developing story The Suffolk Times will continue to track throughout the weekend. Check back for storm updates Sunday.