Henri to Have Dangerous Impacts, as Storm Upgrades to Hurricane, over Northeast

The urgency of preparations for a monster storm hitting parts of the Northeast became a priority Saturday when Henri was promoted to a hurricane as the tropical system moved closer to landfall, expected to hit Long Island and Connecticut first.

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According to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center, Henri is about 395 miles south of Montauk Point, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 60 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical storm-force winds extend out to 125 miles. The storm is currently a Category 1 Hurricane and should continue strengthening before making landfall early Sunday morning.

A Hurricane Warning is currently in effect for the south shore of Long Island, from Fire Island to Montauk Point, the north shore from Port Jefferson Harbor to Montauk Point, and running from New Haven, Connecticut to Westport, Massachusetts.

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A Tropical Storm Warning is posted for Long Island from West of Fire Island Inlet to East Rockaway Inlet, along with New York City and New Jersey. Parts of the city could see 4″ of rain and 50 mph wind gusts. 

Outgoing Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for Long Island, New York City, Westchester County, the Hudson Valley, and the Capital District in a press conference on Saturday afternoon.

The state is also deploying 500 National Guard members and 1,000 state police personnel to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

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Cuomo also said that the MTA is planning to stop service on the Long Island Rail Road around midnight east of Ronkonkoma and east of Patchogue.

Cuomo also warned that heavy rains were expected to create problems far up into the Hudson River Valley.

The governor, who will leave office in two days following a sexual harassment scandal, urged people not to make bad choices and put themselves in places where they needed to be rescued.

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Officials in Suffolk County issued a voluntary evacuation order for Fire Island, as the potentially dangerous storm makes its way north.

Henri was veering a bit further west than originally expected, and if that track holds, it would have eastern Long Island in its bullseye rather than New England, which hasn’t taken a direct hit from a hurricane since Hurricane Bob in 1991, a Category 2 storm that killed at least 17 people.

New York hasn’t had a direct hit from a major hurricane season storm since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in 2012.

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“Heavy rainfall from Henri could result in considerable flash, urban, and small stream flooding, along with the potential for widespread minor and isolated moderate river flooding,” a National Weather Service advisory states.

“As Tropical Storm Henri moves toward Connecticut and is expected to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane, I will be requesting a pre-landfall presidential emergency declaration to provide the state with federal assistance needed for storm response,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “In addition, I will be declaring a state of emergency in advance of the storm making landfall, which will enable the state to take any actions necessary to respond and protect the people of the state.”

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Lamont warned Connecticut residents that they should prepare to “shelter in place” from Sunday afternoon through at least Monday morning, as the state braces for the first possible direct hit from a hurricane in decades.

Regardless of its exact landfall, broad impacts were expected across a large swath of the Northeast, extending inland to Hartford, Connecticut, and Albany, New York, and eastward to Cape Cod, which is teeming with tens of thousands of summer tourists. Reflecting Henri’s changing track, a hurricane watch was lifted for the Cape on Saturday, though it remained under tropical storm and storm surge warnings.

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Utility companies are warning that the storm could knock out power, possibly for several days.

“We’re preparing for tropical storm force winds and rain, which may reach the area Sunday and cause service problems,” Con Edison said in an email to customers. “Con Edison has secured extra crews to respond to any outages or other service problems.”

PSEG Long Island said crews were system checks and preparing extra supplies.

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“Given the potential intensity of the storm, some outages may last up to seven to 10 days,” PSEG Long Island said in a news release. “The eastern end of Long Island is expected to experience the most severe weather and impact.”

Coast Guard officials are warning both commercial and recreational boaters to be aware of the dangers related to the coming storm and try to stay off the water.

“The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen. This means help could be delayed,” the Coast Guard said in an advisory. “Boaters should heed weather watches, warnings, and small craft advisories.”

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The Coast Guard is also urging people to stay off the beach because of the danger from storm surges and rip currents.

“Wave heights and currents typically increase before a storm makes landfall. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by tropical storms or hurricanes,” the Coast Guard said. “Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.”

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New York state park officials were building a wall of sand along the boardwalk at Jones Beach to protect it against surging tides, said George Gorman, the regional director for state parks on Long Island. The wall was being built with equipment procured in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which caused substantial damage to beaches that took months to reopen, he said.

New York City officials are closing Cedar Grove Beach, Coney Island Beach, Manhattan Beach, Midland Beach, Orchard Beach, Rockaway Beach, South Beach, and Wolfe’s Pond Beach to swimming and wading on Sunday and Monday.

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