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Tropical Storm Henri heads for a direct hit on Long Island, with inland flood risk

Tropical Storm Henri is on track for a direct hit on southern New England as a hurricane on Sunday, likely first striking Long Island, between New York City and Montauk.

The big picture: If Henri does come ashore at hurricane intensity on Long Island, it would be the first such storm in 36 years to do so — (Irene was a tropical storm at landfall in 2011).

  • As of 8 a.m. ET, Tropical Storm Henri was located about 200 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, and moving north-northeast at 15 mph. Continued movement to the north, and then a curve northwest are predicted before landfall Sunday.

Details: Tropical Storm Henri will bring an array of potentially deadly threats, including storm surge flooding that could peak between three and five feet above normally dry ground, from Long Island (including Long Island Sound) all the way east to Nantucket.

  • Henri's biggest dangers will likely be in the form of water, from coastal storm surge to inland flooding from heavy rainfall.
  • The surge itself will be accompanied by pounding surf that could cause considerable beach erosion all the way east to Cape Cod.
  • Storm surge warnings are in effect for the South Shore of Long Island east to Montauk Point. Such a warning is also in effect along the north shore of Long Island from Montauk Point to Flushing, N.Y., as well as parts of Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Block Island.
  • The surge warnings include northern Queens and the Bronx in New York City, due to the potential for water from Long Island Sound to be pushed west, and flooding on the south side of Long Island as well.
  • The most likely areas to see the greatest storm surge damage are eastern Long Island — including the Hamptons _ and southeastern Connecticut.
  • With a widespread two to four inches of rain — jumping to as much as 7 inches or more in some areas —  Henri poses an especially risky scenario for inland flooding. This includes Long Island, northeastern New Jersey, much of Connecticut, western Massachusetts and upstate New York.

Threat level: It won't take much rain to instigate flash and river flooding, since the northern Mid-Atlantic and New England have been particularly wet in recent weeks. Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 demonstrated the potential for even relatively weak storms to wreak havoc inland from flooding rains.

  • Storm surge impacts are likely to begin Saturday night and into early Sunday morning. Sunday is set to bring high astronomical tides due to the full moon, so the timing of landfall is crucial. If it strikes land at the time of high tide, the surge could be especially damaging.
  • Hurricane warnings are in effect for central and eastern Long Island and coastal Connecticut from New Haven eastward. New York City is under a tropical storm warning for weaker, but still potentially damaging, winds.
  • Hurricane conditions are forecast to begin late Saturday night or Sunday along the south coast of New England, according to the National Hurricane Center.
  • Given wet soils from recent rains, even tropical storm-force winds could cause widespread power outages, particularly in southeastern New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
  • "Confidence is increasing in damaging to destructive winds, major (life threatening) storm surge and flooding rains for LI and CT," stated the New York City office of the National Weather Service (NWS) in a Saturday morning briefing.
  • "The area hasn’t seen a landfalling hurricane since Gloria in 1985, which at that time caused extensive and long duration tree damage and power outages," the NWS stated.

What's next: Tropical Storm Henri is forecast to intensify throughout the day Saturday, peaking at Category One intensity with about 80 mph maximum sustained winds by Saturday evening. Its winds are likely to weaken rapidly once the storm moves inland, but the heavy rain and flooding will persist.

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