Overstayed welcome? Henri takes its time drenching Northeast
NEW YORK — Henri was downgraded to a tropical depression as it churned deeper inland early Monday, with experts predicting it will settle for awhile near the New York-Connecticut border before heading back east. Here’s everything to know about the Northeast weather that’s tropical in name, but far from its titular home:
Is Henri still a hurricane? No. The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm early Sunday and then to a tropical depression later in the day. It weakened as it made landfall in Rhode Island at midday. By Sunday evening, it was weaker still as it moved over parts of western Massachusetts and Connecticut.
What’s the difference between a hurricane, tropical storm and depression? It’s all about the wind. Specifically, the sustained wind speeds. The maximum sustained winds for a hurricane is anything above 74 mph. A tropical storm? 73 mph.
As of early Sunday evening, Henri’s sustained winds topped out at 40 mph, well below hurricane status.
It dropped to a tropical depression when sustained winds fell below 39 mph.
But don’t write Henri off. The greatest threat from a storm this size is water. Heavy rains cause storm surges and inland flooding, and historically, those things have threatened life and property more than high winds.
What areas is Henri supposed to affect? After coming ashore, Henri veered west, dumping massive amounts of rain on Connecticut and New York’s Hudson River Valley, which could cause dangerous flooding. So far, the storm surge hasn’t been significant like it was with 2012′s Superstorm Sandy — the effects of which are still plaguing New York. It’s forecast to bank east early Monday and skirt parts of Vermont and New Hampshire before heading out into the Gulf of Maine.
Who is Henri? Who is Bob? Who is Gloria? A stormy trio. Henri had strengthened into a hurricane Saturday morning before losing steam Sunday. Had it made landfall as a hurricane, it would have been New England’s first in 30 years. Bob was its predecessor, responsible for the deaths of 17 and $1.5 billion in damage in August 1991. But with Connecticut in Henri’s path, some might better remember Gloria — the September 1985 hurricane made landfall on both Long Island and Connecticut and caused eight deaths and nearly $1 billion in damage.
Je m’appelle Henri — why do I share a name with a storm? These storms have human names courtesy the World Meteorological Association, which draws up a list of 21 names for each Atlantic hurricane season.
So what are the conditions needed for an Henri (or Bob or Gloria)? There are two ingredients needed for a storm to track this far up north: a tropical system itself and steering currents. Most tropical systems in the northern hemisphere run out or recur before they can make their way north, according to the National Weather Service.
OK, so this is pretty rare. Is Henri’s path connected to climate change? It’s just a tropical weather phenomenon, the National Weather Service says. But at the same time, climate change isn’t off the hook when it comes to tropical weather — global warming exacerbates hurricanes, making them stronger and wetter.
How does Henri compare to Sandy? Sandy’s known as a superstorm around these parts, because it technically wasn’t a hurricane when it did its worst to New York City, its suburbs and the Jersey Shore in October 2012. Henri has not been that hard on the city or the shore, but it could cause calamitous flooding in the saturated Hudson River Valley. Power outages throughout the greater region could last a week or more. And with Sandy, at least, there was more time to prepare.
We’re in the dog days of August — are there still tourists on the Atlantic coast? Oh, yes. School is back in session in parts of the east coast, but there are still thousands of tourists enjoying the beaches of Cape Cod, the Hamptons and elsewhere.
Is Henri a fast- or slow-moving storm? Henri isn’t winning any races. Its slow churn could be a good thing, increasing the chance it will falter quickly. But it could also mean a lot of concentrated rain, which translates to flooding.
Wait, was Hurricane Bob the same as ‘the perfect storm’? Nope, though both storms were in 1991. The so-called “perfect storm” —also known as the Halloween Storm — hit New England about two months later. It started as a nor’easter, in which form it inflicted the most damage. A hurricane eventually formed at its center — but it purposely went unnamed, because meteorologists worried it would be distracting.
Say it had been named, what would it have been known as? Henri.
Seriously? Yep! Atlantic hurricane names are recycled every six years, unless they’re retired out of notoriety — we’re never going to see another hurricane named Katrina, or even Bob, again. And the “H” name — Henri in 1991 — was next on the list when the storm struck.
So that movie isn’t about Bob? Correct. “The Perfect Storm” was a 2000 movie starring George Clooney and New England’s own Mark Wahlberg, based on a book of the same name by Sebastian Junger. We’re getting a little off-topic, here, though.
What about Irene? 2011’s Irene was indeed a hurricane, but by the time it ravaged Vermont, it was technically a tropical storm.