What's Worse: Wind or Rain? What to Know as Henri Moves Through

Henri was downgraded to a tropical storm ahead of its landfall Sunday in New England on Sunday

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Henri was downgraded to a tropical storm ahead of its landfall Sunday in the Northeast. Here’s everything to know about this weekend’s 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 it was weakening as it made landfall in Rhode Island at midday.

What's the difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm?

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 afternoon, Henri’s sustained winds topped out at 60 mph, well below hurricane status.

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?

Forecasters expect Henri to bank west now that it’s come ashore, 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.

Who is Henri? Who is Bob? Who is Gloria?

A stormy trio. Henri strengthened into a hurricane Saturday morning — and will perhaps become 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 sights, 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 hurricane?

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?

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?

No, perhaps surprisingly. It’s just a tropical weather phenomenon, the National Weather Service says. We shouldn’t necessarily expect to see more frequent New England tropical storms.

What do people need to do to prepare for Henri?

This isn’t New England or New York’s first rodeo with weather writ large. After all, a nor’easter is just a hurricane with a Boston accent. It’s not too different in the Long Island dialect either. So, the usual protocols apply: Get boats out of the water, gas up cars, stock the pantry and batten down the hatches. Be prepared for power outages, too.

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?



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.

OK, you said Henri is expected to be the first hurricane to hit New England in 30 years -- but what about Irene?

Irene was indeed a hurricane, but by the time it ravaged Vermont, it was technically a tropical storm.

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