Henri Spares South Fork, Brings Rain, Waves and a Practice of Preparedness

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East Hampton Village lifeguards at Main Beach closed the beach to swimming at 11:00 a.m. in preparation for Hurricane Henri on Saturday, August 21st, 2021

The predictions were daunting — seven to 10 days without power; hurricane-force winds; 2 to 4 feet of storm surge — and the East End prepared. But for most people on Sunday, Hurricane Henri’s fury manifested as just another rainy day in August.

The towns of Southampton and East Hampton both issued voluntary evacuation orders for residents of low-lying areas, impacting around 6,500 residents — the first evacuation order since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The Weather Channel dispatched two meteorologists to Montauk, each broadcasting live on national television throughout the day on Saturday, covering the area’s preparations — and on Sunday, on the storm’s subdued impact.

PSEG Long Island warned of seven to 10 day outages, but late on Sunday morning, the utility only reported small power outages in Springs and Bridgehampton, impacting around 500 customers. By Monday, only around 50 homes were without power.

A list of storm reports compiled by the National Weather Service lists just two incidents on the East End: Downed branches on power lines in Bridgehampton and flooding on Dune Road in Hampton Bays.

And although Henri packed a substantially weaker punch than what hurricane and storm surge warnings issued by the National Hurricane Center cautioned of, for local officials and Weather Service meteorologists, preparing for the worst was critical.

“The storm jogged a little bit further east than at first anticipated,” said Dominic Ramunni, a meteorologist with the Weather Service forecast office in Upton. “We always have to plan for the reasonable worst-case scenario.”

Mr. Ramunni said it was important that the headlines in news outlets and the text of the hurricane and storm surge warnings — which at one point, warned of the potential for 110 mph wind gusts in southeast Suffolk — matched this worst-case scenario.

Jay Schneiderman, the Southampton Town Supervisor, said Henri provided a good opportunity for emergency preparedness.

“Our team had limited time to prepare for a Category 1 hurricane and they excelled,” he wrote in a text message. “It’s only a matter of time before there will be an actual Category 1 hurricane here.”

The National Hurricane Center issued forecast tracks that mirrored the actual track and intensity of Henri starting on Thursday, predicting Henri would pass somewhere between Fire Island and Block Island as a Category 1 hurricane or strong tropical storm midday Sunday.

Mr. Ramunni said the storm’s narrow miss of Montauk Point was owed to its reduced intensity: A stronger storm would have interacted with an upper-level low to its west, which would have pulled it west.

Across the East End, residents raced to prepare for the storm on Saturday. A few restaurants and businesses in Southampton Village were spotted boarding up their windows; Lines formed at gas stations throughout the East End on Saturday — by day’s end, some stations ran dry.

On Sunday, residents crept out of their homes to find that the storm spared the area: Surfers dotted the shorelines of Southampton; onlookers watched the waves from a covered Coopers Beach Pavilion; and customers visited open coffee shops and delis in Southampton Village — finding parking spots with ease. Come Sunday evening, the sky cleared, open to a summertime sunset.

According to the Weather Service, the Westhampton Airport observed the highest rainfall total on the South Fork, measuring 2.38 inches; The Montauk Airport recorded the highest wind gust of 45 mph.

The most severe weather in the region occurred Saturday night, in New York City, when record-breaking thunderstorms flooded streets and led to water rescues — 1.94 inches of rain fell from 10 to 11 p.m., the wettest hour in the city’s history, according to the National Weather Service.

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