Electrical Outages Main Henri Problem: RI gets more wind than rain as storm passes to west

Although it is too early to be sure, with most of RI on the eastern side of the path of TS Henri the main consequence of the storm is electrical outages. As of 1:47pm, National Grid was reporting 424 outages affecting 81,964 customers. Most of those affected are in southern RI, where the storm center was reported over Block Island at 11am EDT and, according to the National Hurricane Center, made landfall in the Westerly area at 12:15pm with maximum sustained winds of 60mph.

Because low pressure centers such as storms have counter-clockwise airflow (in the Northern Hemisphere), regions to the east of the track receive higher velocity wind with the forward motion of the storm added while regions to the west of the track receive higher rainfall.

National Grid electrical outage status (Source: )

Terry Sobolewski, interim president of National Grid New England, said at the press conference with RI Gov. Daniel McKee at 10am today that he expected the storm and its recovery to be a “long duration” event. It is not safe to send out repair crews until wind and rain have died down, he explained, and then he expects it will take 12 to 24 hours to assess damage and determine where to deploy workers. At the prior press conference at 3:15pm yesterday he said that mutual assistance agreements had already been activated and, by that point, there were 230 line crews and more than 100 forestry crews with about 1,000 personnel already staging.

Speaking with McKee after his press conference yesterday, this Motif reporter asked him what priorities he raised with President Joe Biden earlier in the afternoon in a telephone conference call involving a number of governors of states expected to be affected by Henri. McKee pulled out his notes from the conversation and said that, in addition to asking for federal help through the National Guard and American Red Cross, prolonged electrical outages that lasted for days, as happened with Hurricane Sandy in 2012, could prove devastating to small businesses especially after the downturn caused by the pandemic. McKee said that Biden responded that he shared that concern and, in response to McKee’s request, would personally call the consortium responsible for arranging mutual aid in restoring electrical service and offer any federal government assistance they needed.

Damage so far from southern RI seems mostly downed trees in Narragansett and some flooding in Westerly, but RI Emergency Management Director Marc Pappas told Motif that there had been few reports of serious structural damage and RI had so far been fortunate to escape the worst water from rainfall and storm surge.

To the west of the storm track, Flash Flood Warnings have been posted for coastal Connecticut, and forecasts of as much as 6 to 10 inches of rainfall were possible in the Bridgeport-New Haven area. While wind can cause problems, especially with electrical outages, most injuries and deaths associated with tropical weather systems are from water.