Henri was over the Atlantic Ocean about 270 miles (435 km) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, at 8 p.m. EDT, and was moving northward up the East Coast near 7 mph (11 km/h), the NHC said on Saturday. Maximum sustained winds are near 70 mph (110 km/h) with higher gusts.
“A continued forward motion at a faster forward speed is expected through early Sunday,” it added. “Strengthening is forecast to occur during the next day or so, and Henri is expected to become a hurricane tonight or Saturday and be at or near hurricane strength when it makes landfall in Long Island or southern New England.”
Normally dry areas near the coast may be affected by flooding due to a combination of a storm surge and the tide, such that rising waters coming in from the shoreline can reach 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) in some areas, including in Queens and the north shore of Long Island, according to the NHC. The surge can reach 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, and Sagamore Beach.
Heavy rainfall of about 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15.2 cm) on Sunday into Monday is also expected to bring some flash, urban, and small stream flooding over Long Island and New England.
Here are the 5 PM EDT August 20th Key Messages for Tropical Storm #Henri. Parts of the Hurricane Watch area has been updated to a Hurricane Warning for portions of Long Island and Connecticut.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 20, 2021
“This storm is extremely worrisome,” said Michael Finkelstein, police chief and emergency management director in East Lyme, Connecticut. “We haven’t been down this road in quite a while and there’s no doubt that we and the rest of New England would have some real difficulties with a direct hit from a hurricane.”
Finkelstein said he’s most concerned about low-lying areas of town that could become impossible to access because of flooding and a storm surge.
The Coast Guard urged boaters to stay off the water, saying in a statement: “The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen. This means help could be delayed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.