Hurricane Henri barrels toward Long Island; residents prepare for worst

NEW YORK — New York began to feel the effects of Hurricane Henri as soon as late Saturday, as the storm barreled toward the region.

The first pieces of the storm brought enough rain and lightning to New York City to cancel the Central Park Homecoming Concert mid-show, though the effects were nothing compared to what’s expected to come overnight into Sunday morning, when Henri makes landfall.

Forecasters said Henri was expected to remain at or near hurricane strength when it makes landfall midafternoon Sunday, which the National Hurricane Center said could be on Long Island or in southern New England — most likely Connecticut.

Intense winds and potentially dangerous tidal surges were expected, and utilities warned ensuing power outages could last a week or more.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a live briefing on Henri Saturday afternoon; watch here:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a State of Emergency on Saturday for Long Island, New York City, Westchester County, the Hudson Valley and the Capital Region.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit Saturday.

The governor expressed concern that New Yorkers haven’t had enough time to prepare for the storm after its track shifted on Friday, making a direct hit on Long Island the most likely outcome.

“We have short notice. We’re talking about tomorrow,” he said. “If you have to move, if you have to stock up, if you have to get to higher ground, it has to be today … Please take this seriously.”

Cuomo likened Henri’s potentially dangerous impact to what happened in New York during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. 

“So, it’s as serious as a heart attack,” he added.

The state will deploy 500 National Guard troops and the State Police will have 1,000 personnel on duty.

The White House was expected to sign a pre-landfall emergency order to help release emergency funds, Cuomo said.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will assume the governorship next week, said the federal government is fully cooperating with the state.

In a likely controversial move, Cuomo did not have Hochul in attendance at his briefing.

The mayor urged New Yorkers to adjust their weekend plans ASAP in order to stay safe Sunday.

He said he’s been in communication with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell — who left New York City’s Office of Emergency Management to take the federal role, so she’s familiar with the needs of the city.

While Long Island remains a major area of concern, current OEM Commissioner John Scrivani reminded New Yorkers about the storm surge and flooding threats for Queens and the Bronx.

Scrivani said New York City residents are not being asked to evacuate, as the worst of the storm is expected to be to the east; Suffolk County officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for Fire Island.

The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad preemptively suspended some service in areas expected to be severely impacted by the storm.

Port Authority officials expect flights to be canceled. Travelers should check with their airline before going to the airport on Sunday and Monday.

Long Island prepares for Henri

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a voluntary evacuation of Fire Island on Saturday after forecasters predicted Henri will hit the area as a Category 1 hurricane. Ferry service will not run on Sunday, Bellone said, so Saturday is the only chance for residents and visitors to heed the evacuation order.

“There’s no guarantee that if people call [for help on Sunday], they will be able to respond,” the county executive warned.

Watch the news conference in the video player below.

Additionally, Bellone said it’s unclear when ferry service to Fire Island would be restored because they don’t know what kind of damage the storm may inflict on the area’s infrastructure.

Cuomo also urged people on Fire Island to listen to the evacuation order and leave the island Saturday.

“I think you’re putting yourself in a place of danger,” he said of people who decide to shelter-in-place.

Tracking Hurricane Henri

Henri was veering a bit further west than originally expected, and if that track holds, it would have eastern Long Island in its bullseye rather than New England, which hasn’t taken a direct hit from a hurricane since Hurricane Bob in 1991, a Category 2 storm that killed at least 17 people.

New York hasn’t had a direct hit from a powerful cyclone since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in 2012. Some of the most important repairs from that storm have been completed, but many projects designed to protect against future storms remain unfinished.

The last hurricane to make landfall on Long Island was Gloria in 1985.

With a top wind speed of 75 mph, Henri sped up to move north-northeast at 17 mph, as of Saturday afternoon. It’s still about 395 miles south of Montauk Point on Long Island.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the town was considering issuing a voluntary evacuation advisory for about 6,000 people. He said current storm models show that the storm’s center would run “smack on the town of Southampton.”

He described a run on supplies like batteries and flashlights as people “are starting to wake up.”

“Right now it seems like a sunny summer day, but, you know, by this time tomorrow we’re going to be in the middle of potentially a severe hurricane,” he said.

Regardless of its exact landfall, broad impacts were expected across a large swath of the Northeast, extending inland to Hartford, Connecticut, and Albany, New York, and eastward to Cape Cod, which is teeming with tens of thousands of summer tourists.

Storm surge between 3 and 5 feet is possible from Flushing, New York, to Chatham, Massachusetts, and for parts of the North Shore and South Shore of Long Island, the National Hurricane Center said.

Rainfall between 3 to 6 inches is expected Sunday through Monday.

The weather service warned of the potential for damaging winds and widespread coastal flooding, and officials in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York cautioned that people could lose power for days. Authorities advised people to secure their boats, fuel up their vehicles and stock up on canned goods.

Gov. Ned Lamont warned Connecticut residents they should prepare to shelter-in-place from Sunday afternoon through at least Monday morning as the state braces for the first possible direct hit from a hurricane in decades.

In the Hamptons, the celebrity playground on Long Island’s east end, officials warned of dangerous rip currents and flooding that’s likely to turn streets like the mansion-lined Dune Road into lagoons.

“We have a lot of wealthy people. There’s no doubt that we do, but everybody pulls together in an emergency,” Schneiderman said. “So, you know, yeah, there are people hanging out on their yachts at the moment drinking martinis, but they’re also starting to talk about this storm and I’m sure they’re going to want to be helpful.”

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Marcelo reported from Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Eaton-Robb reported from Columbia, Connecticut. Associated Press writers Larry Neumeister, Michael R. Sisak and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York, and William J. Kole in Warwick, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.

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