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Tropical Storm Henri makes landfall in Rhode Island

By Mary Gilbert, AccuWeather.com and Allen Cone, UPI
1/7
Tropical Storm Henri makes landfall in Rhode Island
Beachgoers walk down Conimicut Point Beach as Tropical Storm Henri arrives in Warwick, R.I., on Sunday, Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Tropical Storm Henri made landfall near Westerly, R.I., early Sunday afternoon, just 27 miles from the last hurricane to strike the region 30 years ago.

On Aug. 19, 1991, Hurricane Bob made landfalls in Newport, R.I., and later Maine, and caused $1.5 billion in damages, roughly $3 billion in today's dollars, in Massachusetts alone. As a Category 2 storm, winds greater than 100 mph and severe coastal flooding blasted Massachusetts during Bob's rampage.

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The entire Northeast, with about 58 million residents, was dealing with tropical storm-strength winds and rain. New York City, which is only 142 miles from Westlerly, was under a flash flood warning until 5:45 p.m. Flash floods warnings expired just before Monday in Morris, Sussex and northeastern Warren counties in New Jersey, and Madison County in New York and Lackawanna County in Pennsylvania.

A flash flood watch is in effect until Monday night for parts of central New York and northeast Pennsylvania.

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The National Hurricane Center reported that Henri hit the coast at approximately 12:15 p.m. with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, based on "data from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft, NOAA Doppler weather radars and surface observations." It was moving north-northwest at 12 mph.

A Weatherflow station near Point Judith, R.I., had measured a sustained wind of 57 mph and a gust to 70 mph. The center of Henri passed over Block Island, R.I., around 11 a.m.

Henri dropped to a depressions in its update at 8 p.m.

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At 11 p.m., the NHC said the storm was about 85 miles north-northeast of New York City and 25 miles west-northwest of Hartford, Conn. Sustained winds had dropped to 30 mph and it was moving west-northwest northwest at 8 mph.

At 6 a.m. Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center downgraded Henri from a Category 1 hurricane to a strong tropical storm.

The NHS warned of "dangerous storm surge, strong gust winds and flooding rainfall" in portions of the Northeastern U.S.

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On Sunday morning, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont implemented a travel ban on Interstate 95 for all empty tractor trailers, tandem tractor trailers and motorcycles beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday. That ban was lifted early Sunday night.

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And Rhode Island Gov. McKee implored people not to go outside.

"I'm asking you, Rhode Island, to say home until this storm passes. You are not only putting your own life at risk but you are endangering our first responders," McKee said during a news conference.

Early Sunday afternoon, McKee reopened some of the state's bridges: Mount Hope, Newport Pell and Jamestown Verrazzano bridges with restrictions for high-profile vehicles.

Portions of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North suspended service on Sunday., including the Northeast Regional and Acela, between New York City and Boston on Sunday. Amtrak also announced that portions of the Lake Shore Limited, Vermonter and Springfield lines will be shut down Sunday. In addition, New York City's MTA announced that portions of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North will suspend service on Sunday.

Before the storm's landfall, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declarations for Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island for federal assistance to aid states, tribes and local communities in response to the hurricane. In an address to the nation Sunday, Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Administration had pre-positioned resources.

"Fortunately it's no longer a hurricane, it's been downgraded to a tropical storm. And we are taking it seriously, though, because the size and the storm's surge and the rainfall it's producing," Biden said.

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Henri is rated a 2 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes in the United States due to the anticipated rainfall, damaging winds and storm surge set to impact Long Island and New England.

The heaviest rainfall of 4-8 inches with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 18 inches will aim for Long Island, parts of Rhode Island and western Massachusetts.

On Saturday, Central Park in Manhatton, N.Y., set a daily record rainfall of 4.45 inches, the National Weather Service said, and cut short the "WE LOVE NYC: The Homecoming Concert." The previous record was 4.19 inches dating back to 1888.

All New York City beaches were closed Sunday and Monday.

Widespread wind gusts of 40-60 mph are forecast to impact areas from Long Island to Maine into Monday.

Winds of this magnitude will likely be enough to cause significant damage to trees, which can subsequently cause damage to power lines.

In Pawcatuck, Conn., AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell captured footage of a tree that had toppled onto a homeowner's roof, destroying the chimney but causing no further damage.

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According to PowerOutage.US, 53,441 customers were without power in Rhode Island, 14,235 in Connecticut and 9,192 in Connecticut.

McKee told CNN that he expects more than 100,000 people will lose power

"We're very concerned about the impact that the storm is having on us," McKee said.

On Friday, Connecticut power company Eversource estimated between 50 percent and 69 percent of its 1.25 million customers may lose power as a result of Henri. And if that news isn't grim enough, the company estimates that power restoration could take anywhere from 8 to 21 days.

The total damage and economic loss from Henri is estimated to be between $8 billion and $12 billion, according to AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers, who pointed to storm surge as the most threatening hazard Henri poses to the Northeast. Myers added that wind damage will also be significant.

"Even though it is a strong tropical storm on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale and a 2 on AccuWeather's RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes, the area it is impacting is highly populated and there are multi-million-dollar homes on Long Island, particularly in the Hamptons and the south coasts of Rhode Island and Connecticut, and many properties are close to the shore," Myers said. "And, not all of the boats in those areas were lifted out of the water to safety."

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According to Myers, who has been studying the economic impact of severe weather for more than 50 years, Henri is no Superstorm Sandy, which blasted the East Coast in late October 2012.

"There will be damage in the affected areas and people should take all the recommended precautions to remain safe, but Henri is not like Sandy in any way, shape or form," Myers said.

Myers' economic impact estimate is based on an analysis incorporating independent methods to evaluate all direct and indirect impacts of the storm and is based on a variety of sources, statistics, and unique techniques AccuWeather uses to estimate the damage, and includes damage to homes, property and businesses as well as their contents and cars, job and wage losses, infrastructure damage, auxiliary business losses, travel disruption, medical expenses and closures.

The estimate also accounts for the costs of power outages to businesses and individuals, for economic losses because of highway closures and evacuations, emergency management and the extraordinary government expenses for and cleanup operations.

For many New Englanders, Henri will be the first real brush with a hurricane in decades -- and maybe ever for some.

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"This is the most serious hurricane risk in New England in 30 years, since Hurricane Bob in 1991," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist and Senior Vice President of Weather Content and Forecast Operations Jon Porter said of the looming threat.

Henri's drenching rainfall comes just days after parts of the Northeast were soaked by Tropical Rainstorm Fred.

"Since Fred unloaded several inches of rain, Henri's second dose of heavy, tropical rainfall may trigger flash flooding in the region more easily," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Courtney Travis said.

The already-saturated ground will also be a concern when it comes to Henri's anticipated strong winds.

"In soggy, saturated ground, tree roots can lose their grip in the soil more easily due to the root system being compromised," Duff explained. "As a result, it takes a much lower wind gust to knock over a tree sitting in wet soil as opposed to dry soil."

In addition, trees still have all of their leaves across much of southern New England, which can make them more easily weighed down by heavy rain and more susceptible to broken branches.

Another significant risk with Henri will be its potential to produce a dangerous storm surge.

"Henri's strong winds will funnel water into bays and inlets and raise the water level along the coast," Travis said.

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Henri's arrival in the Northeast will also coincide with a full moon Sunday. This combination could bring higher tides and more widespread coastal flooding than what could occur during a different lunar phase.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Nicole LoBiondo, conditions in cities in eastern Massachusetts, such as Boston and Worcester, will begin to dry up by Monday night, however spotty thunderstorms or showers cannot be entirely ruled out, which she said could hinder the clean-up efforts following Henri.

"High pressure will try to press into New England Tuesday night as Henri dissipates along the Maine coast, drying out much of the region and allowing for clean up efforts to continue," LoBiondo said.

AccuWeather meteorologists began warning that the Atlantic coast, including southern New England, would be at risk for tropical weather impacts this season in the annual fall forecast released in early August.

Interestingly, the weather system that gave rise to Henri started out nearly two weeks ago as a cluster of thunderstorms over the middle of the continental U.S. That weather system raced across the country and headed out to sea over the Atlantic, where on Monday it formed into Tropical Storm Henri near Bermuda.

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Henri forced the postponement of two Major League Baseball games: host Boston Red Sox against the Texas Ranger and host New York Yankees vs. the Minnesota Twins.

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