This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Vera Chinese, Joan Gralla, Mark Harrington, Carl MacGowan and Jean-Paul Salamanca. It was written by Brodsky.
Tropical Storm Henri was expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on the South Shore of Suffolk County early Sunday afternoon, bringing damaging winds, power outages and significant flooding, meteorologists said.
For the first time in a decade, a hurricane warning — upgraded from a watch Friday evening — was issued for parts of Long Island, with Henri expected to intensify into a Category 1 hurricane through Saturday as it moves north past the Carolinas and then northwest.
The warning covers the South Shore, from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk, and the North Shore, from Port Jefferson Harbor to points eastward including Fishers Island. And a storm surge warning, indicating life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland, covers Long Island’s South and North shores.
As of 5 a.m. Saturday, Henri was about 195 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, according to a National Weather Service briefing. The agency added that the storm "is expected to make landfall as a Cat 1 hurricane over eastern LI early Sunday afternoon, and continue into [Connecticut] while weakening Sunday evening."
"There has been a dramatic change in the expected path of that storm," meteorologist Bill Korbel said earlier Friday. He noted that in the previous 48 hours, the path had shifted 175 miles to the west, with updated forecasts bringing the storm much closer to Long Island as it churns north.
Korbel said all of Long Island will ultimately feel Henri's wrath.
"There's a potential for flooding and storm surge along the North and South Shore," he said. "Water could be up to 3 or 4 feet above where it normally is."
Gusts of up to 80 mph are possible, with the potential for major damage to homes, beach erosion, uprooted trees and roads impassable from large debris, according to the National Weather Service. Three to 6 inches of rain is possible, the weather service said.
PSEG warns of extended outages
PSEG Long Island warned that outages from the storm could last seven to 10 days. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran called the projection "unacceptable" and urged the utility to call in additional crews.
PSEG said it was bringing in more than 1,200 line workers, tree trimmers, surveyors and other personnel, both locally and from off the Island, to respond to the storm.
"As the storm makes its way up the coast, employees are preparing for the possibility of high winds that can cause flying debris, and bring down trees and power lines," said Michael Sullivan, the utility's senior director of transmission and distribution.
The Long Island Rail Road also began its preparations, deploying equipment and staff.
"We can’t control Mother Nature but we can, and have been, proactively tackling those things that significant weather events typically affect such as overgrown trees, utility poles, drainage and switches to mitigate impacts and provide safe travel," said LIRR president Phillip Eng.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the region was preparing for three main threats: high winds, power outages, and rain and storm surges — which Sunday's full moon may intensify.
"This is a difficult storm to predict," Bellone said at a news conference in Commack. "We know this, having been through this many times before, these storms can shift and change."
The State Department of Transportation said it has begun deploying additional staff and equipment to Long Island including traffic signal technicians and repair trucks, chippers, vacuum trucks, tree crew equipment and generators.
"We've seen this scenario before and we are taking every precaution to prepare for the impacts Henri may bring to New York," said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
East End concerns
Henri was expected to make landfall at or near hurricane strength, according to the National Hurricane Center. Earlier Friday, according to some of the center's models, the "landfall point" was forecast anywhere from "near New York City to Cape Cod."
East Hampton Town, which could experience a direct hit, urged residents Friday to make preparations, including securing outdoor objects. Town officials said there will likely be beach closures because of rough surf and possible tidal surges.
The campground at Hither Hills State Park in Montauk will be closed beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday, officials said.
Southampton Town said flooding will likely have the greatest impacts on low-lying areas, north-side bay areas between the forks, as well as bays and inlets along the South Shore.
On the North Fork, Southold Town officials urged residents to check their generators and gas supply and to check on neighbors who may need assistance.
In Bridgehampton, Henri forced the organizers of the Hamptons Classic Horse Show — which begins Aug. 29 — to take down dozens of tents and 1,600 stalls.
Brookhaven Town announced it would close town beaches, pools and marinas at 9 p.m. Saturday. Recreation and senior centers also would be closed, town officials said, and all parks and recreation programs were canceled.
The storm surge, when the ocean could potentially flood coastal communities, could reach 3 to 5 feet from East Rockaway Inlet to Montauk Point, the National Hurricane Center said. And 2 to 4 feet of floodwaters could arise from Kings Point to Montauk, meteorologists said.
On Fire Island, Ocean Beach Police Chief George Hesse said "we're starting to get concerned."
The U.S. Coast Guard said it could close ports to inbound ships if gale-force winds of at least 39 mph are expected within 24 hours. The port could be shut to all traffic as the storm inches closer, the Coast Guard said.
Nassau gets ready
While the brunt of the storm might be felt on Suffolk's East End, Nassau was also preparing, Curran said.
"At this time, we anticipate high tides, coastal flooding on both the North and South Shore as well as gusty winds that may cause power outages," Curran said.
The Town of Hempstead said it was battening down hatches at area marinas, while at Wantagh’s Jones Beach State Park, sand was being bulldozed into an anti-flood barricade from the West Bathhouse to the East Bathhouse to protect buildings and infrastructure, said George Gorman, Long Island regional director of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
At all Long Island state parks, just about anything that could blow away or topple was being removed, from lifeguard equipment to signs and trash bins, and sandbags were being placed around buildings on low spots, Gorman said.