It’s been 30 years since a hurricane made landfall in New England and Gov. Charlie Baker urged residents Friday to begin preparing for that possibility as Tropical Storm Henri barrels towards Massachusetts.
“The thing we’re most concerned about is if people don’t take this seriously, don’t understand the size and significance of this particular weather pattern, they could end up in a very bad spot,” the governor said during a press conference at the State House on Friday.
Baker said that he has activated up to 1,000 members of the National Guard to assist with high water rescue, debris clearing and public safety support if necessary. Camp Edwards, on Cape Cod, is being prepared to host thousands of utility workers who could be called upon to restore power once the storm passes. Baker said as many as 300,000 homes could lose power during the storm.
As of 11 a.m. Friday, the National Weather Service (NWS) had issued a storm surge watch — meaning that there is “a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline” — for the South Coast, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Much of the same area is also under a hurricane watch.
“It’s pretty clear that this one’s not going to clip us … it looks like it’s gonna come up through Newport, maybe veer a little bit west in the general direction of Worcester and then cut right up toward the Merrimack Valley. That’s a huge swath of the commonwealth that’s going to be right in the middle of this thing,” Baker said. “That’s part of the reason why what we would really urge everybody to do is to try to arrange their affairs in such a way so that they are in one place with shelter, and hopefully food and electricity, from the beginning of Sunday through Monday.”
Meteorologists said Henri was moving northwest at about 7 miles per hour late Friday morning. The storm is expected to make a turn towards the north by Friday night and being accelerating towards southern New England through Sunday.
“On the forecast track, Henri is expected to make landfall in southern New England by late Sunday. Maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph with higher gusts,” the National Hurricane Center wrote in its latest advisory. “Strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Henri is expected to become a hurricane by Saturday and be at or near hurricane strength when it makes landfall in southern New England.”
Because Cape Cod appears poised to take the brunt of the storm, Baker said Friday that vacationers should consider leaving Cape Cod for the worst of the storm and that those about to start their Cape Cod vacations delay their arrival until at least Monday.
“We’re strongly recommending that all travelers delay any trips to the Cape and the islands, possibly until Monday when the storm moves out. Additionally, those currently visiting the Cape and islands this week should consider leaving the Cape on Saturday, or find a way to make plans to stay until Monday or Tuesday,” he said. “The simple point here is we really would like everybody to be off the road at the height of the storm, which will probably last all day Sunday and through until the early part of Monday. We don’t want people to be stuck in the traffic on the Cape Cod bridges when the storm is in full force on Sunday.”
Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler said any decision to close the Bourne or Sagamore bridges would be made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but that a closure is not expected given the current forecast.
“That is absolutely something we’re going to have to watch,” he said. “If there are backups or if there’s traffic going over the bridge, it could present an unsafe situation. We’re asking people to avoid it, even if it doesn’t get to the point of needing a closure.”
The MBTA will operate on a reduced schedule Sunday, “but it is really intended for essential travel only,” General Manager Steve Poftak said Friday. He said specific plans for Sunday’s T service will be announced on the agency’s website and social media pages, but announced that there will be no service at all Sunday on the Mattapan trolley line, the D branch of the Green Line or through the MBTA’s ferry service.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation will close all state campgrounds and require that campers depart by 11 a.m. Saturday. Once lifeguard hours end Saturday, DCR will close all state pools and coastal beaches through Sunday. The Department of Fire Services has been in touch with fire departments on Cape Cod to offer assistance and the State Police have moved additional Marine Unit assets into southeastern Massachusetts to be prepared to move additional personnel and equipment to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket if necessary.
The storm will present multiple hazards to large parts of Massachusetts, including storm surge, sustained high winds, rainfall and high surf.
The combination of a storm surge and the tides is expected to cause “normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the NWS said. The forecasters there said that if the surge corresponds to high tide, areas along Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay could see waters rise between 3 and 5 feet.
Forecasters at the NWS are projecting 2 to 5 inches of rain across southern New England from the storm, though they note that some isolated areas could see as much as 8 inches of rainfall through Monday.
“Heavy rainfall from Henri will result in flash, urban, and small stream flooding, along with the potential for widespread minor and isolated moderate river flooding,” the Weather Service said.
The hurricane bearing down on the Bay State will follow another tropical system that on Thursday spun out a tornado that touched down in Clinton.
(Copyright (c) 2022 State House News Service.