Henri Strengthens Into Hurricane, Aiming for Long Island
(Bloomberg) -- Henri strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday and is on course to pound the coast of New York and New England, prompting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency.
The storm is forecast to strike Long Island or Connecticut on Sunday before pushing into the upper Hudson River Valley or Berkshire Hills.
President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Rhode Island and ordered federal assistance. He authorized the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
Amtrak suspended all service between New York and Boston for Sunday. As of 5 p.m. Saturday, 649 flights around the U.S. had been canceled for Sunday, according to Flight Aware. The majority of those were in Boston, Newark and New York. Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad will suspend some services beginning Saturday night.
The Coast Guard has set port condition “Yankee” for New York, New Jersey and Southeastern New England, meaning that all commercial vessels and barges of more than 500 tons should inform authorities if they wish to remain in port or leave.
A large crowd gathered in Central Park for a concert celebrating New York’s resilience during the pandemic was asked to leave and seek shelter after a serious weather system moved into the area. There was confusion about whether the concert, which was to feature performances by Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon, had been canceled.
New York City, to the west of Henri’s track, will probably be hit by gusts of up to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour, and areas along the city’s East River and Flushing Bay could have sea levels rise as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters). Winds should begin to rise throughout New York and Long Island early Sunday.
However, barring a further shift, the city will avoid a direct strike.
“I know it’s short notice. Think Superstorm Sandy. That was a Category 1. This is a Category 1,” Cuomo said in a press briefing on Saturday. “Hopefully, we don’t come anywhere near the damage of Superstorm Sandy.”
Henri is unlikely to produce anywhere near the $77 billion in damages that Sandy caused in 2012, but it poses a significant threat to transportation and power networks, and is set to unleash potentially deadly storm surges.
Its hurricane-strength winds reach out 60 miles, while Sandy was one of the largest storms recorded in the Atlantic ocean with hurricane-strength winds extending 175 miles from its center.
Utilities are bracing for power outages. Eversource Energy, which serves Connecticut and Massachusetts, said it’s closely monitoring forecasts. Con Edison, which serves much of the New York City region, is “preparing for a worst-case scenario” and lining up 1,200 workers from other utilities to help restore service.
The PGA Tour postponed the final round of the $9.5 million Northern Trust tournament to Monday. “It may be wet but we’re very fortunate to have a golf course here built on sand,” John Mutch, PGA senior tournament director, said in an interview with the Golf Channel.
Henri’s final track will depend on a weather system developing in the Midwest. Forecasts have already shifted a number of times.
The hurricane was about 335 miles south of Montauk Point, on Long Island, with 75 mph sustained winds, the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 p.m. advisory. The forecast calls for it to strengthen slightly before it comes ashore sometime Sunday.
Hurricane warnings have been posted from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point on Long Island’s south shore and from Port Jefferson Harbor to the eastern tip on the north side, and extended to Westport, Massachusetts, and for Block Island, a popular tourist destination. After it comes ashore, the storm is forecast to drift across central Massachusetts early Monday before sweeping to the east across New Hampshire and Maine.
Although the impact on New York City and Boston will mostly be in the form of high winds, a dangerous storm surge may funnel into Long Island Sound, striking both the New York and Connecticut coastlines.
The winds, rain and surge damage could reach at least $1 billion in losses, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research. Many of those costs will be absorbed by residents, who will make repairs themselves or because the damage won’t reach insurance deductibles. The storm could also kick up a tornado or two over southern New England, the NHC said.
But comparisons with Sandy are off the mark. The storm will raise sea levels on the East River and in Flushing by 3 to 5 feet, according to the NHC. Sandy generated a record surge, combined with high tide, of 13.88 feet at the Battery in Manhattan, and flooded the city’s subway.
“There are a lot of media references to Sandy right now, and this will absolutely not be remotely comparable,” Steve Bowen, lead meteorologist at AON, said in a statement.
Henri is the latest in a string of menacing events unfolding around the globe as climate change fuels extreme weather. Massive wildfires are ablaze in California, Greece, Algeria, France and elsewhere. July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.
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