Region dodges worst of Tropical Storm Henri

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By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor

Region dodges worst of Tropical Storm Henri
A car drives past a fallen tree branch on Westborough Rd. in Grafton. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

REGION – Area communities braced for the effects of Tropical Storm Henri, Aug. 22, but were largely spared from the worst of the storm’s impacts as it weakened and tracked to the west of its previously predicted path.

Coalescing early last week off the coast of Bermuda, the storm prompted anxiety and widespread preparations in the region as experts suggested it might strike anywhere from Cape Cod to Long Island with hurricane force winds. 

That would have made Henri the first storm since Hurricane Bob to hit New England at such strength. 

“Residents are advised to shelter in place during this weather event,” read a statement from the Town of Hudson published on Aug. 21.

Region dodges worst of Tropical Storm Henri
A sign in Northborough begged the rain to go away, Aug. 23 amid what has been a historically rainy summer. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

Before the storm, the Westborough Fire Department reminded community members to report power outages through the National Grid app to avoid overburdening dispatch services. 

Grafton announced that it had “undertaken storm readiness activities to decrease street flooding” while the Southborough Emergency Management Agency issued its own statement on expected hyper-local impacts.

A number of parking lots across the region filled with cherry picker trucks and other vehicles pre-positioned to respond to power outages. 

In Hudson, the town announced that it would open an emergency shelter at Quinn Middle School “in the event conditions warrant.” 

Some businesses planned to close for the day of the storm while event organizers cancelled plans including the Shrewsbury Summer Festival as well as the Soular Jazz Festival and a concert by the Ultimate Billy Joel Tribute Band, both in Northborough.

Region dodges worst of Tropical Storm Henri
A particularly heavy band of wind and rain rolled through the Northborough Crossing plaza shortly after noon on Aug. 22 as then Tropical Storm Henri rumbled ashore along the Rhode Island and Connecticut coast. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

“Residents are encouraged to prepare for the impending weather by ensuring all outdoor items such as trash cans, tables, chairs, grills, etc., are properly secured to avoid being moved by the wind,” Grafton’s statement read.

By the morning of Aug. 22, however, the storm had weakened and changed direction.

Meteorologists who, hours earlier, had the center of Henri passing directly over Worcester, now predicted a sharp left turn over Rhode Island and Connecticut. 

Though the strongest parts of Henri’s core steered clear of area towns, rain still fell and gusty weather still caused problems. 

Scattered power outages hit communities, with close to 300 residents in Marlborough alone remaining in the dark as of 6 p.m. on Aug. 22 according to National Grid’s outage map.

Region dodges worst of Tropical Storm Henri
A car drives past a fallen tree branch on Westborough Rd. in Grafton. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

In Grafton, a large tree branch fell across Westborough Road near the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, briefly slowing traffic in the area. Other debris fell or blew into streets throughout local towns. 

On the waters of Lake Quinsigamond, meanwhile, a boat had to be towed back to shore after it flipped onto its side. 

Remnants of Henri blew back through the region on Aug. 23, dropping more rain and prompting tornado warnings.

Many shared reports of funnel clouds in the region. Later in the afternoon, the National Weather Service then confirmed that three tornados had, indeed, touched down. One impacted Marlborough while the others touched down in Boylston and Stow.

Still, especially in conversations on Aug. 22, many community members chalked up Henri as far less impactful than initially feared.

At 2 p.m. on Aug. 22, during what had been predicted to be the worst part of Henri, two individuals casually jogged laps around the otherwise empty Shrewsbury High School parking lot.

“It’s all headwind,” one of the joggers joked as she ran into the steady breeze.