Henri Shifts East, Forecast Still Includes Heavy Rain, Wind Gusts

Widespread power outages and tree damage expected across CT

additional reporting by CTNewsJunkie.com

SUNDAY, Aug. 22, 9 a.m. — The National Weather Service reports that Tropical Storm Henri has shifted slightly to the east, and is predicted to make landfall closer to the Connecticut/Rhode Island border.

The NWS has downgraded Henri to a tropical storm. It is now forecast to arrive earlier, between 1-2 p.m. this afternoon with sustained winds of 65 mph and gusts to 80 mph.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for New Haven, Middlesex, and New London Counties; tropical storm warnings are in effect for the rest of the state, including Wilton and Fairfield County.

At 8 a.m. radar showed rain bands from Tropical Storm Henri moving across the state from southeast to northwest. North winds are currently gusting to around 35 MPH along the southeast coast. During the next few hours, bands of rain and wind will continue moving into Connecticut, and winds will increase across the state with the strongest winds in the southeast corner of the state.

A storm surge of 3 feet is expected to cause high-end moderate flooding along the coast (west of the storm track) during times of high tide. Henri is forecast to bring 4-6 inches of rainfall to most of the state, which will likely cause moderate to major flooding.

Winds may gust to 60-75 mph at times in southeastern Connecticut late this morning and early this afternoon. Wind gusts of 40-60 mph are expected across the rest of the state. These strong wind gusts could cause major tree and powerline damage.

Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov Susan Bysiewicz, and other state and federal officials discuss preparations for Hurricane Henri on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Credit: Doug Hardy / CTNewsJunkie

At a press conference on Saturday evening, Gov. Ned Lamont said residents can expect the storm to be particularly severe for a few reasons, according to CTNewsJunkie.

First, Lamont said the ground is already saturated by the rainfall over the past week and the storm is expected to drop eight or more inches of rain, which he said will lead to flooding.

“Combine that with the fact that we’re going to have an astronomical tide,” Lamont said. “I mean astronomical in the sense that we’re going to have a very full moon, the highest tides you can have. That, combined with the wind, gives a real risk of flooding along the coastline and interior flooding given the saturation of the soil.”

On Saturday, Eversource estimated that up to 69% of its 1.25 million customers in Connecticut could lose power, and the utility said restoration efforts could last up to three weeks.

The estimate is the upper range of the company’s declared Level 2 Emergency Response Plan, which Eversource officials said was based on “multiple weather forecasts and UConn’s Outage Prediction Modeling.” Following last year’s Isaias storm, the utility was heavily criticized — and penalized by PURA, the state’s energy regulatory body — for its failure to accurately predict and respond to damage from the storm.

For Henri, Eversource officials are anticipating the high winds and heavy rain, potential storm surge along the shoreline and flooding across the state will cause heavy damage.

“With trees being the number one cause of power outages during storms and many of the state’s trees already weakened due to insects and saturated ground caused by recent storms, thousands of trees could come down during this hurricane, further complicating power restoration efforts,” utility officials said in a statement to the press on Saturday.

Eversource President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom said that the company has re-positioning crews, equipment and other resources accordingly and is ready for the expected widespread storm damage.

“While we have a massive contingent of line and tree crews from across the country and Canada here and more on the way, customers should be prepared for lengthy outages. That said, we are singularly focused on our responsibility to restore power as quickly as safely possible for our customers.”

Wilton Police Chief and Emergency Management Director John Lynch said Wilton’s Emergency Operations Center will be active on Sunday and provide emergency resources as needed. He said Saturday that town departments, EMS and C.E.R.T. are all “prepared for a major storm.”

Lynch asked residents to shelter in place for the duration of the storm, and said police will provide updates and road closure information throughout the next several hours.

He also reminded residents to call 911 to report emergencies and use SeeClickFix to report non-emergencies, and any downed trees should be reported through both 911 and SeeClickFix.

Residents can also take several steps in anticipation:

  • Sign up for e-alerts from Wilton Police and the Town of Wilton online. Sign up for emergency calls here. Town communication will occur more frequently through the e-alert system as that system reaches more residents.
  • Sign up for service restoration notices from utility providers
    • Eversource
    • Altice (Optimum)
      • Sign up for alerts through “my account” on the website
      • Report issues
    • Frontier: 24-hour customer service for residential customers at 800.239.4430 and business customers at 800.921.8102

State/Federal Response

President Joe Biden has declared a federal state of emergency in Connecticut in advance of Henri’s impact so that the federal government can provide the state with assistance.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced that officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are already embedded at the CT State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and will stay there throughout the duration of the storm. The State EOC became fully activated as of Sunday morning and is staffed by officials from the relevant state agencies, as well as representatives of the major utility companies. It is also where Lamont will monitor the storm’s progress and manage any issues that may arise.

Lamont also implemented a travel ban on all empty tractor-trailers, tandem tractor-trailers, and motorcycles on I-95 effective at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22, until further notice.

All public transit systems statewide, including trains, buses, and ferries, had planned to suspend operations by the very early hours of Sunday morning. These suspensions will likely last through at least Monday morning.

Post-Storm Resources in Wilton

Post-storm:  If the need arises, information on indoor cooling and internet access centers in Wilton will be made available.

  • Town of Wilton:  Internet will be accessible outside all municipal buildings and schools. If school buildings lose power, only the exterior of Miller-Driscoll School (217 Wolfpit Rd.) will have internet. The password is Warrior1.
  • Wilton Family YMCA: The Wilton YMCA will assist residents with cooling, charging and showering as long as it has power and the driveway is accessible. The Wilton YMCA is closed on Sunday, and officials say they’ll make a decision on Monday’s opening hours by Sunday, 6 p.m. Check the website for updates
  • Wilton Library: If the Wilton Library has electricity on Monday morning, residents can access the facility and its resources, re-charge electronic devices, use the computers, and have access to bathrooms. The library offers free Internet service, which is easily accessible outside the building.

Stay away from any downed power lines and assume they are live. Power lines can cause electrocution even in proximity. Stay clear of flooded areas and do not attempt to drive through them.