Tropical Storm Henri is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Saturday and could reach the Northeast coast of the United States by late Sunday, meteorologists said on Friday.
Hurricane-strength winds in Northeastern states like Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts would be unusual, should they arrive. The last time a hurricane made landfall in New England was 30 years ago.
But meteorologists are not yet sure which path the storm will take over the weekend, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the Hurricane Center in Miami.
“The homework assignment for everybody up there is, one, check your supplies and, two, pay attention to the forecast updates, because they will be changing,” he said on Thursday.
Henri, which developed on Monday off the East Coast of the United States, is the latest of a trio of storms that recently formed in the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the attention this week was on Tropical Depression Fred, which made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Monday afternoon as a tropical storm, and Tropical Storm Grace, which came ashore in Haiti as a tropical depression before making landfall in Mexico on Thursday as a hurricane.
As of early Friday morning, Henri was 345 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The storm was moving west northwest at 7 miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds of 65 m.p.h., the National Hurricane Center said.
Henri was expected to turn north on Friday evening. The system is forecast to reach the coast of southern New England on Sunday.
A hurricane watch was in effect for parts of Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts including, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, the center said. A tropical storm watch was also in effect for areas west of Fire Island, N.Y., west of Port Jefferson Harbor, N.Y. and west of New Haven, Conn.
Henri is expected to dump up to five inches of rain over New England on Sunday and Monday, with isolated totals near eight inches. Heavy rainfall across the area could bring some flooding. Some coastal areas could see storm surge as high as five feet.
While it is not uncommon for there to be several active weather systems at once during hurricane season, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said, it is somewhat unusual to have three with tropical storm watches or warnings for land areas at the same time.
“It’s a busy period here,” Michael Brennan, the branch chief of the center’s hurricane specialist unit, said on Monday.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though 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 likely become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.
Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.
In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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. In early August, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season will be an above average one, suggesting a busy end to the season.
Matthew Rosencrans, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that an updated forecast suggested that there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30. Henri is the eighth named storm of 2021.
Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to using 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.
Derrick Bryson Taylor, Neil Vigdor, Jesus Jiménez and Jacey Fortin contributed reporting.