Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday said he’s requesting a state of emergency to be declared as Tropical Storm Henri intensified and the National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for parts of Connecticut.
Tropical Storm Henri is expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall in southern New England by late Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. The latest forecast calls for the storm to shift farther west with the potential to impact most of southern Connecticut.
In requesting a state of emergency for federal assistance to help with storm damage, Lamont also called for 200 members of the National Guard to be prepared to conduct search-and-rescue missions, as well as clear routes, help with power and distribute goods if needed.
“Right now, it’s a good idea for everyone to be prepared and expect to shelter in place by Sunday afternoon through at least Monday morning,” said Lamont, who canceled his weekend trip to Maine to return to Connecticut.
Eversource, the state’s largest electrical supplier, has bumped its projection for the storm from a level four event to a level three, meaning up to 49 percent of customers could be without power for up to 10 days, President and CEO Joe Nolan said.
“This will be a very significant storm,” Nolan said during a news conference in Hartford Friday afternoon. He said the path of the storm is expected to stretch nearly 170 miles from New Haven to Cape Cod.
Gary Lessor, chief meteorologist for Western Connecticut State University, compared the storm to Hurricane Irene in 2011.
“Everybody should be taking some precaution,” Lessor said, adding residents should have groceries for up to five days.
The National Weather Service forecasts Henri to become a hurricane by Saturday. The storm will be at or near hurricane strength when it makes landfall in Long Island or southern New England on Sunday morning, the weather service said.
As the storm lifts northward between Bridgeport and New Haven Sunday morning, Henri is expected to bring heavy rain that could lead to flooding throughout southern New England. Ocean swells from the storm are expected to last through the weekend and may bring potentially life-threatening surf and rip currents, the weather service said.
Central Connecticut could see 3 to 7 inches of rainfall Sunday, Lessor said. The strong winds could cause potential roof damage, as well as snap or uproot large trees, according to the National Weather Service.
Lessor said precipitation from the storm will affect the coastal areas by 4 a.m. Sunday and will move out of the area by 4 p.m. Sunday or as late as 8 p.m. in the Danbury area.
The worst of the storm will occur midday Sunday, Lessor said.
The weather service issued hurricane watches for northern Middlesex, northern New Haven and northern New London counties. A storm surge warning and hurricane warning are in effect for southern Middlesex, southern New Haven and southern New London counties.
A storm surge warning and tropical storm warning are in effect for southern Fairfield County.
All of Connecticut’s shoreline is under a storm surge watch, meaning “there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline” over the next 48 hours, the weather service said.
“We have everybody — all hands on deck,” Eversource’s president and CEO said. “I have canceled all vacations so everybody is here working, and we will work until the last customer is back on.”
The utility company plans to bring in around 4,000 additional crews along with trailers and what Nolan described as military-style barracks to house them, along with thousands of hotel rooms. The utility plans to use the Crystal Mall in Waterford as a staging ground.
The utility CEO said he was concerned about the possibility of tree damage from the storm, and have “crews out right now” taking down problem trees. He also raised concern about the possibility flooding could disrupt the utility company’s gas service.
“I want to assure everyone here in Connecticut that we will do everything we can to restore their power as quickly as possible, but I do need to ask for patience,” Nolan said. “We really are facing a storm that I can’t recall ... some of the patterns that I’m seeing right now I have not really seen for several decades.”
United Illuminating, serving parts of Fairfield and lower New Haven counties, said in a statement it has doubled the size of its field crews ahead of the storm.
“Customers are urged to begin preparing for the storm now as forecasters predict Henri to cycle between tropical storm and hurricane strength before entering the area early Sunday morning just east of United Illuminating’s service area,” the statement said. “Winds will increase throughout Sunday and steady rain through Monday. This combination can cause tree branches, debris, and unsecured items to damage electrical poles, power lines and cause outages.”
A spokesman for Verizon said in a statement the telecommunications company “remains vigilant and prepared to keep customers connected,” during the storm. The company recommended people charge their phones and devices ahead of the storm and keep battery backups in case of power outages.