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Midday Saturday Update On Henri For Western & Central Mass

Reconnaissance aircraft investigating Henri have found that it is now a hurricane with 75 mph winds. There is actually potentially some good news with Henri and that is the mid-level wind shear affected Henri longer than what was previously thought. Because of that, the window of time to strengthen is now about 12-18 hours. So, while Henri is likely to still strengthen the rest of today into tonight, rapid strengthening now looks less likely than it did at this time yesterday.

This means that Henri will strengthen as it crosses the Gulf Stream the rest of today is afternoon into tonight and it appears that the storm will probably peak at around 85 to 95 mph at some point tonight. By Sunday morning, Henri is expected to weaken as it moves north of the Gulf Stream and into ocean water temperatures of around 75 Degrees. While it’s quite possible that Henri may still be a 75-80 mph hurricane when it makes landfall, I think that there is growing evidence that Henri will more likely be a 65 to 70 mph tropical storm at landfall. With that said, I will be watching reconnaissance data and other data extremely closely to see if Henri strengthens more than what I now think. If that does occur, it would change the entire forecast, but I’d alert you well in advance of any huge changes to the forecast.

Henri is expected to move nearly due north and come ashore first over central or eastern Long Island near midday Sunday with 65 to 75 mph winds and then make a second landfall along the Connecticut shore somewhere between New Haven and New London during the early afternoon hours of Sunday with about 65 to 75 mph or so winds.

A track across Western Mass (probably near or right along I-91) is then expected during Sunday night into Monday all while weakening quite quickly. With that said, the slow movement of Henri means that it is likely to put down a lot of rainfall in some areas. More on that later.

Forecast Impacts Across Southern New England:

Wind: The strongest winds will occur to the east of where the center moves onshore. At the very least, I expect hurricane force winds along coastal parts of south-central and southeastern Connecticut and coastal Rhode Island from about midday Sunday to about early evening Sunday.

A large part of Connecticut along and east of I-91 is likely to see tropical storm force winds with wind gusts of up to 55 to 65 mph expected during Sunday afternoon into Sunday night.

Further north, tropical storm force wind gusts are expected mainly east of I-91 across Western Mass and across much of Central Mass, especially near and south of the Mass Pike. Across these areas, wind gusts of up to 45 to 60 mph can be expected Sunday afternoon into Sunday night.

I advise everyone across Western and Central Mass to be ready, at least, for downed trees with power outages. The ground is super saturated and thus the tree roots are weakened because of it. This means it’s only going to take wind gusts of 35 to 40 mph or so to start pushing over trees. Also, the wind direction will be from a southeasterly direction, which trees are not used to and thus they are more susceptible to being blown over.

Rain & Flash Flooding: The highest rainfall totals are expected on the western side of the storm track and this potentially means that Western Mass and especially areas along and west of I-91 is likely to receive 5 to 10 inches of total rainfall with locally much higher amounts possible. What really concerns me is that Henri is expected to be a very slow moving storm, which is highly unusual for New England tropical systems. This means that I’m very concerned that Henri may end up raining itself out over us over a couple of day period leading to some extremely high rain totals across Western Mass (really concerned about the Berkshires).

Further east, rainfall totals of 2 to 3 inches can be expected east of I-91 in Western Mass and across all of Central Mass. Even with these totals, flash flooding is still likely given the already very wet ground.

I think that flash flooding and even the potential for major, catastrophic flash flooding is all but certain across Western and Central Mass from Henri.

Storm Surge Flooding: The track of Henri from southeast to northwest across Southern New England is likely to drive a higher than normal storm surge into coastal areas of Southern New England.

In addition to this, the combination of the Full Moon and the numerous bays and sounds along the south coast of New England will also enhance the potential storm surge and will likely produce a much more significant coastal flood event than one might see with a weakening hurricane or tropical storm in New England.

Overall, I think that we may be looking at a storm surge that reaches upwards of 4 to 7 feet above ground level along the entire south coast of New England.

Tornado Threat: There is the possibility for a few spin up tornadoes in association with Henri during Sunday afternoon and Sunday night, especially across areas east of I-91 in Western Mass, as well as across all of Central and Eastern Mass. Depending on how long Henri lingers over our area, the tornado threat could last into Monday across the entire area.

I highly encourage everyone across Southern New England to continue getting ready for the potential impacts from Henri. You have the rest of the day today to get ready for potential flooding and the possibility of downed trees and power outages.

In Closing, My biggest concerns right now with Henri in Southern New England are:

1. Heavy Rain & Flash Flooding - Extremely saturated ground will not be able to hold another 2 to 3 inches of rainfall across Central Mass or 5 to 10 inches of rainfall across Western Mass. Because of this, flash flooding could be a BIG problem.

2. Storm Surge - The angle of the storm's track to the coast is such that I am really concerned about some significant coastal flooding, especially along the South Coast of New England. Also, the full moon is on Sunday & this will lead to already abnormally high tides. This means that we are really going to have to watch for some serious coastal flooding.

3. Wind - The wind threat continues to be my least concern as it appears that Henri will be weakening fairly quickly as it makes landfall due to cooler waters south of New England. So, overall I think that 45-60 mph wind gusts should occur across much of Southern New England with perhaps 75-95 mph wind gusts along the Connecticut and Rhode Island coast when Henri makes landfall.

Again, my biggest concern is the potential for big time flash flooding and this should not be underestimated or discounted.

I continue to closely watch Henri and I promise that I'll be with you every step of the way to guide you through this storm.

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