The Northeast was bracing on Saturday for the arrival of Hurricane Henri, which had gained strength in the Atlantic Ocean with winds of up to 75 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane Henri is expected to make landfall on Long Island or in southern New England on Sunday afternoon, adding that it is expected to be “at or near hurricane strength when it reaches the coasts” of those areas. The Category 1 storm is expected to bring several inches of rain across the Northeast and in some areas may produce a storm surge of up to five feet, the center said.
There are storm watches and warnings across the Northeast, including a hurricane warning for much of Long Island, and from New Haven, Conn., to west of Westport, Mass. A tropical storm warning is in effect for coastal New York and New Jersey, west of East Rockaway Inlet to Manasquan Inlet, including New York City.
Henri is expected to bring three to six inches of rain on Long Island, New England, southeastern New York, and Northern New Jersey on Sunday into Monday, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches, the center said.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the center said on Saturday for those under hurricane warnings.
BOSTON — As Hurricane Henri churned up the East Coast on Saturday, communities from New York to Boston prepared for what would be the first hurricane to make landfall on Long Island or in New England in at least 30 years.
Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said he had activated as many as 1,000 members of the state’s National Guard to make high-water rescues and clear debris. In Connecticut, where several southern counties were under a hurricane watch, Gov. Ned Lamont said he was declaring a state of emergency. And the utility PSEG Long Island warned customers that power outages could last seven to 10 days in the wake of the storm.
Henri was projected to make landfall on Long Island or in southern New England as a Category 1 storm on Sunday afternoon, although its precise track remained uncertain.
As the weather reports evolved, Christine Oakland-Hill, the owner of Oakland’s Restaurant & Marina on Long Island, became increasingly fearful of a damaging storm. Her business is in the beachy town of Hampton Bays, and the road to the restaurant floods easily, she said.
“It’s emotional,” Ms. Oakland-Hill said on Saturday morning. “This is our livelihood, our legacy. It’s really hard. It’s scary.”
Dangerous storm surge from Henri, which strengthened into a hurricane with 75-mile-per-hour winds on Saturday morning, was projected in parts of Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. But even if it were to swerve toward New York City, a repeat of Hurricane Sandy was unlikely.
It earlier looked more likely that the storm would directly hit New England, sending customers to Adler’s Design Center & Hardware in Providence, R.I., where they bought all of the store’s kerosene lamps before moving on to flashlights and candles, said Leanne Dolloff, a cashier.
But even then, many longtime residents of the region were skeptical that the storm would be too disruptive.
“We’re New Englanders, we can handle it,” said Ms. Dolloff, 40, who remembers waking up to a floating bed in her Lowell, Mass., home when Hurricane Gloria — the last hurricane to make landfall on Long Island — swept through in 1985.
Utility companies in Connecticut were preparing for possible power outages after the state struggled last year with extensive and long-lasting blackouts after Tropical Storm Isaias. Mr. Baker advised drivers to put off travel to Cape Cod, and to avoid being on the roads during the brunt of the storm.
The coastal areas of New York were readying for flooding, powerful winds and widespread debris, with the New York City Parks Department announcing that all city beaches would be closed to swimming on Sunday and on Monday because of the extreme conditions.
“We all need to take this storm extremely seriously,” the Massachusetts governor said at a news conference on Friday.
Officials were preparing in case Henri causes as much damage as Gloria or Hurricane Bob, which tore its way up the East Coast in 1991. More than a dozen people died in each storm.
Gloria was a Category 1 storm when it hit Long Island, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate, bringing down thousands of trees and leaving 1.5 million homes without power. Bob made landfall as a Category 2 storm, and millions more were affected by downed trees, power outages and flooding.
Boston’s Seaport District is too young to remember that lashing. Billions of dollars have been spent over the past 20 years to raise a financial and residential center from the mud flats and salt marshes along Boston Harbor. It still sits vulnerable at the head of major floodways, but on Friday bars and restaurants like Harpoon, Legal Sea Foods and Yankee Lobster had not made plans to close for Henri.
Farther east, in the Cape Cod community of Buzzards Bay, boats were being removed from the marina but little was being done to secure gas grills or deck chairs, said Peter Meier, a longtime resident.
Henri was expected to flood many areas already inundated from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred. In Boston, officials said they were building barriers around the city’s most vulnerable subway station and would suspend some transit services on Sunday. Massachusetts saw heavy rains on Thursday that required emergency workers to retrieve people from cars caught in high water.
Hurricane Sandy flooded subway and highway tunnels in New York in 2012, knocking out power to much of Manhattan. But Sandy was a much larger storm, devastating an area from New Jersey to Connecticut, whose size drove a catastrophic surge of seawater into New York Harbor.
Henri is not expected to have the same impact, and passengers waiting to board the ferry from Boston to Provincetown on Friday night were cautiously optimistic that their plans would not be foiled.
Gary Livolsi said he had been through a lot of nor’easters and was content simply making sure the umbrellas and cushions were not left on his patio.
“I’m hoping they’re overestimating it, as they often do,” said Susan Mahoney, who was off to spend the weekend in Provincetown but was fully prepared to stay longer if necessary. “I brought extra wine.”
Reporting was contributed by Troy Closson, Michael Gold and Adam Sobel from New York, Colleen Cronin from Providence, R.I., Catherine McGloin from Boston, and Beth Treffeisen from Dennis, Mass.
Adam Sobel is a professor and director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University. He is an atmospheric scientist and host of the “Deep Convection” podcast.
There are some striking similarities between Tropical Storm Henri, which is forecast to become a hurricane before making landfall along the Northeast coast this weekend, and Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of New York and New Jersey in 2012.
At the same time, there are some very important differences that will probably affect the track and impact of Henri. New York City, in particular, is not at great risk this time, though some forecast models still show Henri turning west and making landfall there.
There’s a reason that hurricanes rarely reach New York or New England, where none has made landfall in the 30 years since Hurricane Bob in 1991. As storms drift north, they get caught up in the prevailing winds at higher latitudes. These winds generally blow from west to east (unlike tropical winds, which generally blow the opposite way), and push hurricanes out to sea, away from the Eastern Seaboard.
Something has to break that pattern before the Northeast can get a direct hit.
What can do that? Either a high-pressure system offshore to the east of the storm, or a low-pressure system approaching from the land to the west, or both, can drive a hurricane northward rather than eastward. When those conditions occur, the south-facing parts of the coast — from Long Island to Cape Cod — become the most likely landfall area, as it is for Henri.
Similar meteorological situations have been responsible for most, if not all, of the hurricane landfalls in the area, like the 1938 “Long Island Express” storm and several hurricanes in the 1950s. Those events prompted the building of storm surge barriers in Stamford, Conn., Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass.
Sandy was an extreme case. An approaching low-pressure system was strong enough to cause Sandy to revolve around it (and vice versa) as the two systems merged in what is called the Fujiwhara effect. This process strengthened Sandy and slung it westward, resulting in the “left hook” that brought the storm into the New Jersey shore at nearly a right angle. No other storm is known to have done that.
A similar configuration is developing now: An approaching upper-level low-pressure system is predicted to do a Sandy-like dance with Henri. But it doesn’t look as though the Fujiwhara effect will be powerful enough this time to sling Henri as far west as Sandy turned, nor is it likely to give Henri the strength of Sandy, which reached Category 3 at one point. (By the time Sandy came ashore, it was back down to Category 1, which Henri is predicted to be at landfall.)
Beyond that, Sandy was an extremely large storm. Its size and westward track conspired to drive a catastrophic surge of seawater into New York Harbor. With Henri looking less extreme in both respects, a major disaster for New York City and New Jersey is unlikely this time.
There are reasons to hope that Henri won’t actually be disastrous anywhere. It is forecast to slow down and weaken before landfall. But it is too early to say that with confidence.
At this point, preparation and vigilance are very much in order, especially on Long Island and across southeastern New England.
Hurricane Grace made landfall on the eastern coast of Mexico’s mainland early Saturday, hours after strengthening into a Category 3 storm as it passed over the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm made landfall near the resort town of Tecolutla just before 1 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of nearly 125 miles per hour. It was moving west at about 10 m.p.h. and was expected to weaken later Saturday as it continued inland over the mountains.
The National Hurricane Center warned that preparations to protect life and property should be rushed in the hurricane warning area, which included the coast of mainland Mexico from Puerto Veracruz to Cabo Rojo. A tropical storm warning was in effect north of Cabo Rojo to Barra del Tordo.
“We have to be very careful,” Laura Velazquez, the head of Mexico’s civil protection authority, said at a news conference on Friday. “We ask the population to be very alert.”
By Saturday morning, Grace was about 60 miles northeast of Mexico City, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 90 m.p.h., according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Continued rapid weakening is expected as Grace moves inland over the mountains of central Mexico today, and the hurricane is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm by this afternoon,” the center said.
The storm thrashed the Yucatán Peninsula as a hurricane on Thursday, bringing strong winds, heavy rain, power failures and hundreds of evacuations before it weakened to a tropical storm. It became a Category 1 hurricane again early Friday.
Just days earlier, the same storm had brought flooding to Haiti, hurting recovery efforts after a devastating earthquake struck the country on Saturday.
The Yucatán Peninsula is no stranger to storms during hurricane season. Last August, Tropical Storm Marco skimmed the tip of it, and in October, Hurricane Delta and Hurricane Zeta struck the peninsula, knocking out power, felling trees, shattering windows and causing flooding along the Caribbean coast.
The Mexican mainland was preparing for strong winds and pouring rain as the storm moves west.
Parts of central Mexico could get six to 12 inches of rain, with isolated maximum totals of 18 inches, through Sunday, the hurricane center said. That could cause flooding and mudslides. Water levels could rise by as much as six to nine feet along the coast because of the storm surge, which could also produce “large and destructive waves.”
Earlier this week, the storm brought sharp winds and pelting rain to survivors of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Saturday and killed more than 2,000 people.
Grace’s arrival there intensified the need for help in recovering from the earthquake. Videos circulating on social media showed heavy rain pummeling towns and villages overnight and on Monday, bringing the risk of flash floods and landslides.
Grace is the seventh named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, following several days of floods and power outages unleashed this week by Fred. That storm made landfall on Monday afternoon in the Florida Panhandle and moved inland across the southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
A third Atlantic storm, Henri, formed on Monday afternoon as a tropical storm off the East Coast of the United States, becoming the eighth named storm of the hurricane season. It was tracking 320 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., on Friday afternoon and was expected to gain hurricane strength before approaching southern New England on Sunday or Monday.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to experience stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms. However, the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
A major United Nations climate report released this month warned that nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, leading to more frequent life-threatening heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.
In May, scientists with NOAA forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. This month, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be above average, suggesting a busy end to the season.
Matthew Rosencrans of NOAA said that an updated forecast suggested there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30.
Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to Greek letters.
It was the highest number of storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.
Alyssa Lukpat, Jacey Fortin, Jesus Jiménez, Neil Vigdor, Maria Abi-Habib, Andre Paulte, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Oscar Lopez, Constant Méheut and Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.
An earlier version of this article misidentified the Mexican state where Carlos Joaquín serves as governor. It is Quintana Roo, not Yucatán.