New Bedford is the only city in Massachusetts with a hurricane barrier. Tony Marques, who lives right next to it, said the last time he saw the gates close on Rodney French Boulevard was when Hurricane Bob hit in 1991.

But he and others in the city are preparing to rely on the gates once again. 

 “You never know with this climate change,” Marques said. “Anything is possible.”

According to the National Weather Service, Tropical Storm Henri is expected to strengthen into a hurricane and make landfall Sunday night in southern New England, leaving communities from Long Island to Cape Cod to batten down the hatches. In New Bedford, they’re preparing for rain, heavy wind, and a surge of ocean water up Buzzard’s Bay.

A hurricane watch has been issued for most of Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said some of the flood gates will close if the ocean rises high enough. The city has already arranged hotel rooms for residents in low-lying areas on the wrong side of the barrier, especially in the area of Padnaram Avenue.

“We don’t anticipate it,” Mitchell said of evacuating residents, “but we are ready just in case.”

For everyone else, Mitchell said the best thing to do is stay inside starting Saturday night, and he asked residents to pack away anything near their home that could blow away. 

In other parts of the South Coast, Fall River is opening a temporary shelter for residents displaced by the storm. Mayor Paul Coogan said the areas around Stafford Square, Davol Street and Plymouth Avenue are being monitored for flooding.

In Westport, public safety officials warned a community of people living in RVs near Horseneck Beach to evacuate if the storm is upgraded to a hurricane. 

Thomas Lyons, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said flooding could coincide with an especially high set of tides projected in New Bedford on Sunday. He also said the unusual amount of rain this summer has left the ground more saturated than it would typically be during a summer storm, increasing the risk of flash floods and the potential for trees to fall.