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Tropical Storm Henri barrels into southern New England with damaging winds, flooding

Tropical Storm Henri, with maximum sustained winds down only slightly from hurricane intensity, is walloping southern New England with damaging winds, storm surge flooding, and torrential rainfall.

The big picture: The storm has slowed down slightly and taken a well-advertised turn towards the northwest as it approaches eastern Long Island, southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island, taking a north-northwesterly path toward the coast.

The latest: At 9 a.m. ET, Tropical Storm Henri was located about 35 miles south-southeast of Montauk Point, New York, or 70 miles south of Providence. It is moving north-northwest at 16 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, with higher gusts.

  • The storm has been weakening slightly as it approaches the coast due to cooler waters just offshore. It is forecast to move north-northwest and slow to a near crawl later Sunday and Sunday night.
  • Tropical storm-force winds, sustained at 39 mph to 73 mph, with higher gusts, have moved onshore and will keep pushing inland throughout the day. Some areas may see a six-hour or more period of damaging winds which, given recent rains, are likely to take down trees and power lines.
  • Tropical storm and storm surge warnings span the length of the southern New England coast as the storm's 125-mile diameter tropical storm wind swatch pushes water towards the coast.

A storm surge of 3 to 5 feet above normally dry ground is anticipated along the south coast, including Long Island's south and north shores, coastal Connecticut, Rhode Island and Cape Cod and the Islands. Nearly twenty-foot waves have been observed just off the coast.

  • This would not be a record surge but is comparable to other events in the past which caused damage.
  • The National Weather Service forecast office in New York City called the surge threat "major (life-threatening)" for its forecast area.

The storm's other biggest risk is heavy inland rains, with a widespread 3 to 6 inches of rain likely to fall from northeast Pennsylvania to New England. Some spots may pick up 10 inches or more, and Henri-related flash flooding is already underway in northern New Jersey.

  • Five-to-six inches of rain has already fallen in parts of Connecticut, New York City, and N.J.
  • The "We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert" was disrupted on Saturday night when tropical moisture related to Henri plus another storm system swept into the city, resulting in the heaviest one-hour rainfall total on record for New York City, at 1.94 inches, according to the Weather Service.
  • The authoritative climate science report released this month by the U.N. IPCC on climate science published earlier this month found that extreme precipitation events, including heavy downpours, are becoming more frequent and severe, and that tropical storms and hurricanes are producing heavier rainfall in a warming world.

The bottom line: Typically, inland flooding, rather than strong winds, is the greatest threat to lives and property out of a tropical storm or hurricane's arsenal.

  • "Heavy rainfall from Henri may result in considerable flash, urban, and small stream flooding, along with the potential for widespread minor to isolated moderate river flooding," the National Hurricane Center warned.

Good morning! The rising sun is giving us a view of now Tropical Storm Henri. Henri is expected to make landfall around lunchtime. Don't sleep on this storm just because it was downgraded to a TS; the expected impacts remain the same! #mawx #riwx #ctwx

— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) August 22, 2021

Storm surge building in Buzzards Bay this morning. Here's Woods Hole. Fortunately timing still looks good (coming in at low tide early afternoon)

— Eric Fisher (@ericfisher) August 22, 2021

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