Henri downgraded to a tropical storm, still expected to bring heavy rainfall, storm surges and hurricane-strength gusts to the Northeast


Chart showing flash food risks across northeast region. Areas in red (including NYC and parts of Connecticut expected to get moderate flooding).
  • Henri was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane into a tropical storm but it’s still packing 75 mph winds.

  • Tropical storm conditions began to spread across the US northeast region Sunday morning.

  • Hurricane and storm surge watches are in effect and extensive flooding is anticipated.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Henri was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm, but forecasters on Sunday warned it will bring heavy rain, storm surges, and powerful wind gusts across Long Island and New England.

Storm inundation is expected Sunday morning in parts of Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center. A hurricane warning is in effect in Long Island, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Millions of people across the region could lose power for up to 10 days and experts urged people in the path of the storm to stay indoors and be prepared. Southern New England ports were shut down by the Coast Guard. Early estimates predict at least $1 billion in damages as the storm pushes from New York to Maine.

“Heavy rainfall may lead to considerable flash, urban, and small stream flooding,” the NHC said. There’s also the potential that minor river flooding will occur in eastern New York and New Jersey. Henri may also lead to swells, which could cause “life-threatening surf and rip currents,” the update says.

The tropical storm conditions are expected to last through Sunday. Currently, Henri is exhibiting maximum sustained winds at 75 mph. The storm was moving north at 18 miles per hour Sunday morning.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued hurricane and storm surge watches for the coastal areas between New Haven, Connecticut, and Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts. The watches are also in effect for portions of Long Island’s north and south shores, along with Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Block Island.

Heavy rainfall, high tides, and dangerous surf are expected

Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker urged residents to prepare for the coming storm and advised anyone planning to visit Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard to delay their trips, local news outlet 22News reported on Friday.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has declared a state of emergency ahead of Henri’s landfall.

Heavy rainfall from Henri could lead to various types of floods, including flash floods, river and stream flooding, and flooding in cities across southern New England beginning Sunday. Two to 5 inches of rain are expected over eastern Long Island and southern New England Sunday into Monday.

That rainfall, coupled with storm surge and a higher-than-normal tide fueled by Sunday’s full moon, could also cause coastal flooding in normally dry areas.

A rare New England landfall

Superstorm Sandy local governements suing big oil companies for climate change

Storm surge pushed up by Superstorm Sandy floods homes in Hampton Bays, New York, October 29, 2012. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Before its downgrade, weather officials believed Henri would make landfall as a hurricane. If it continued as a hurricane, it will have been the first in the area since Hurricane Bob in 1991.

“This is the first time in nearly 10 years that we’ve had a Hurricane Watch issued for portions of our area,” the NWS in New York tweeted on Friday.

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused devastating storm surge and flooding across all New England states, as well as New York and New Jersey. Sandy was not a hurricane when it made landfall.

NOAA predicts there will be up to 13 more named storms this season

tropical storm elsa makes landfall in florida

Tropical Storm Elsa makes landfall in Taylor County, Florida, on July 7, 2021. Mark Wallheiser/Getty

By definition, any cyclone-shaped storm with winds faster than 39 mph is a tropical storm. Storms get named once their winds reach that speed. Then after winds hit 74 mph, a storm becomes a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Henri is the year’s eighth named storm; two of those storms, Elsa and Grace, became hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with activity peaking around September 10.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts there will be a total of seven to 10 hurricanes in 2021, and up to 21 named storms. That includes three to five major hurricanes – meaning Category 3, 4, or 5, with winds at least 111 mph. There have been no major hurricanes so far in 2021.

Overall, the average number of storms per season has increased due to climate change, so NOAA recently updated the baseline numbers it uses to make seasonal hurricane predictions. The agency now defines an average season based on data from 1991 to 2010, when the average was 14 named storms, seven of which were hurricanes. Previously, NOAA considered an average season to have12 storms in total, with six being hurricanes.

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