• August 22, 2021

Henri weakens to tropical storm before making landfall in Northeast

Henri weakened slightly to a tropical storm early Sunday, but still had wind gusts of up to 75 mph in some areas as it was scheduled to hit a long stretch of the Northeast coast, where millions on New York’s Long Island and in southern New England braced for the possibility of flooding, downed trees and prolonged power outages.

With the center of the storm projected to pass near the eastern tip of Long Island by noon, hurricane warnings extended from the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the luxurious waterfront properties of New York’s Hamptons.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 110 kph (70 mph) in an 8 a.m. EDT update from the U.S. National Hurricane Center, just below hurricane status. The highest winds measured were 121 kph (75 mph) off the coast of Rhode Island.

Experts warned that the biggest threat from the storm likely comes not from wind but from storm surge and inland flooding, caused by what is expected to be heavy and sustained rains.

In preparation for the storm, officials in Providence, Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, closed the giant hurricane barriers that were built in the 1960s, after the devastating storms of 1938 and 1954.

The Massachusetts Steamship Authority canceled ferry service between the mainland and the popular holiday islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket until at least noon Sunday after the US Coast Guard closed the ports of Cape Cod and New Bedford. Tourists waiting in their cars, waiting for a last-minute ferry off the islands, were left stranded until the worst of Henri passed.

The first thunderstorms that brought what could be up to half a foot (15 centimeters) of rain arrived Saturday night and flash flooding began in some areas overnight. Bands of heavy rain overwhelmed storm drains and drivers made their way through foot-deep water in parts of New York City and Newark and Hoboken, New Jersey.

Tropical storm-intensity winds began to hit the coast Sunday morning. The rising tide threatened to produce a dangerous storm surge.

People on the projected road spent Saturday scrambling to stock up on groceries and gasoline. Those close to the shore boarded up the windows and, in some cases, were evacuated.

Residents and visitors to Fire Island, a narrow strip of sandy towns just above sea level off the southern shore of Long Island, were urged to evacuate. The last boats left before 11 p.m. Saturday and officials warned that there may be no way to reach the people who were left behind.

The evacuation threw a wrench at Kristen Pavese’s planned Fire Island bachelorette party. The group of 10 had intended to celebrate Saturday night, but ended up leaving on the ferry just one day after arriving. They had planned to stay until Monday.

“I’m upset about it, but it’s the weather. It’s nothing I can control, ”said Pavese, a Long Island resident. “I’ve been going to Fire Island for a long time, so I’m familiar with this.”

The proximity of severe weather Saturday night also disrupted a superstar-laden concert in Central Park. The show headed by Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Jennifer Hudson was meant to celebrate New York City’s recovery from the coronavirus. But officials asked concert goers to leave the park during Barry Manilow’s set amid the threat of lightning.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will step down Monday after resigning over a sexual harassment scandal, emerged Saturday to plead with New York residents to make last-minute preparations.

Governor Ned Lamont warned Connecticut residents that they should prepare to “shelter in place” from Sunday afternoon through at least Monday morning as the state prepares for the first possible direct hit of a hurricane in decades. Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee issued a similar warning.

Some gas stations from Cape Cod to Long Island ran out of fuel. Southampton City Supervisor Jay Schneiderman described a run on supplies like batteries and flashlights when people “are starting to wake up” as weather models showed the center of the storm would work “directly over the city of Southampton. “.

The region’s main airports remained open as the storm approached, although hundreds of flights were canceled Sunday. Service at some branches of the New York City commuter rail system was suspended until Sunday, as was Amtrak service between New York and Boston.

The White House said President Joe Biden discussed the preparations with the Northeast governors and that New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who succeeds Cuomo on Tuesday, also participated.

Biden then began approving emergency declarations with Rhode Island.

New York has not been directly hit by a powerful cyclone since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in 2012. Some of the major repairs from that storm have been completed, but many projects designed to protect against future storms remain unfinished.

Regardless of its exact landfall, wide impacts were expected across a large swath of the Northeast, extending inland to Hartford, Connecticut and Albany, New York, and east to Cape Cod, which is packed with tens of thousands of tourists. Of summer.

A storm surge of 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) was possible across much of Long Island Sound to Chatham, Massachusetts, and slightly less on Long Island’s Atlantic coast, the hurricane center said. Flash flooding was possible in inland areas already saturated by recent rains.


Hill reported from Albany, New York. Associated Press writers William J. Kole in Warwick, Rhode Island, Mallika Sen and Larry Neumeister in New York, Mike Melia in Hartford, Connecticut, and Mark Pratt in Waltham, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

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