Itapevi WESTERLY, RI (AP) – Storm Henri weakened to a tropical depression Sunday night as it crawled over the northeast and continued to unleash downpours over a region already saturated with heavy rain
to-and-fro Monday, Aug 23, 2021 12:15 PM EST
By DAVID KLEPPER, MICHAEL KUNZELMAN and DAVID PORTER, AP
WESTERLY, RI (AP) – Storm Henri weakened to a tropical depression on Sunday evening as it crawled over the northeast and continued to unleash downpours over a region already saturated with heavy rain and winds, and with over 100,000 households and flooded roads with it Turned off the electricity, blocked bridges and left people stuck in their vehicles.
Henri landed on the Rhode Island coast on Sunday, and the National Hurricane Center warned the slow-moving storm would continue to bring heavy rainfall to much of the area.
The storm was downgraded by a hurricane before it hit New England, which gave many a sigh of relief. There were few early reports of major damage from wind or surf.
However, the storm’s heavy, persistent rains raised concerns about flooding from the storm, which threatened to stall over the region before turning east and venturing out into the Atlantic on Monday night. Some of the highest rain totals were expected inland.
President Joe Biden pledged on Sunday to provide federal aid to residents of northeastern states affected by Henri as soon as possible. The president declared disasters in large parts of the region and opened the wallets for federal reconstruction aid.
“We are doing everything we can to help these states prepare, respond and recover,” said the president.
Biden had previously offered his condolences to the people of Tennessee after at least 22 people, including young children and the elderly, were killed in severe flooding from an unrelated storm, and dozens more were missing.
By Sunday evening, Henri had winds of about 35 mph as he moved over Connecticut and into Massachusetts, according to the National Hurricane Center. When it hit land near Westerly, Rhode Island, it had winds of about 60 miles per hour and gusts of up to 70 miles per hour.
Several major bridges in Rhode Island, which connect much of the state, were temporarily closed on Sunday, and some coastal roads were almost impassable.
West-based Collette Chisholm, a 20-year-old resident, said the waves were much higher than normal, but said she was not concerned about her home taking major damage.
“I love storms,” she said. “I find it exciting as long as no one is injured.”
In Newport, Paul and Cherie Saunders weathered the storm in a house their family has owned since the late 1950s. Her basement was flooded with 1.5 m of water during super storm Sandy nine years ago.
“This house has seen so many hurricanes and so many things,” said Cherie Saunders, 68. “We’ll just wait and see what happens.”
Rhode Island has been hit by regular hurricanes and tropical storms – including Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Bob in 1991. The city of Providence suffered so much flood damage from a hurricane in 1938 and Hurricane Carol in 1954, that they created a hurricane barrier in the 1960s to protect downtown from a storm surge that drifts up Narragansett Bay. This barrier – and newer gates that have been built nearby – were closed for hours on Sunday before reopening.
The National Weather Service recorded what could be the wettest hour ever in Central Park, with 1.94 inches of torrential rainfall pounding the park between 10:00 PM and 11:00 PM on Saturday. In the early evening, thousands who attended a homecoming concert in the park had to disperse due to heavy rains.
“I call it the wettest hour in New York City, New York, for the record books,” said Dominic Ramunni, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Upton, New York.
The weekend was the wettest two-day period in New York City since Tropical Storm Irene a decade ago, said Dominic Ramunni, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Upton, New York.
Some communities in central New Jersey were inundated with up to eight inches of rain by noon on Sunday. In Jamesburg, television videos showed flooded downtown streets and cars almost completely submerged.
In Newark, public safety director Brian O’Hara said police and firefighters saved 86 people in 11 storm-related incidents. He said “significant flooding” resulted in several vehicles submerged in flooded areas.
“This could have been a lot worse, especially with regard to the wind,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Sunday evening.
Likewise, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said Henri was on the verge of being in the “rearview mirror” but said there was more work to be done even if mandatory evacuations were lifted in some communities. Around 250 residents from four nursing homes on the coast were relocated to other nursing homes earlier in the day.
The prediction had some feared that the worst effects of the rains would still come in a region where the soil in many areas is saturated from the recent rains.
Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric science program at the University of Georgia and past president of the American Meteorological Society, said Henri was somewhat reminiscent of Hurricane Harvey, a slow-moving storm that decimated the Houston area in 2017.
“There’s a banding on the west side of the storm that has literally been stationary – sitting there and draining rain. That will pose a significant threat to the New York and New Jersey area, “Shepherd said.
After Tropical Storm Irene hit the coast in August 2011, many were relieved when the New York City area was largely spared. But then the storm settled over the Green Mountains, and Irene became the greatest natural disaster to hit Vermont since an epic flood in 1927. Parts of the state got 11 inches of rain in just 24 hours. Irene killed six in Vermont, left thousands homeless, and damaged or destroyed more than 200 bridges and 500 miles of freeway.
“I remember Irene and the media outside Vermont brushing it aside like it wasn’t a big deal while it hit Vermont,” tweeted Robert Welch, a podcaster on Sunday. “I’ll relax when I see it on the radar at sea.”
As of Sunday afternoon, over 78,000 customers in Rhode Island, 32,000 in Connecticut, 9,000 in Massachusetts and 4,000 in New York were affected by power outages.
In one of his final appearances as governor before stepping down on a sexual harassment scandal late Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state’s main concern was the decreasing threat to inland areas such as the Hudson River Valley to the north of New York City, where centimeter-wide rains were expected in the next few days.
“There are hills in the Hudson Valley, there are creeks, the water flows down those hills and turns a creek into a devastating river,” said Cuomo. “I’ve seen small towns in these mountainous areas that have been ravaged by the rain. It’s still a very real possibility. “
Major airports in the region remained open as the storm approached, despite hundreds of flights being canceled on Sunday. Service on some branches of the New York City subway system was suspended until Sunday, as was Amtrak service between New York and Boston.
Norbert Weissberg was watching the waves crash from the edge of the parking lot on an East Hampton beach when strong winds whipped an American flag fluttering from an unmanned lifeguard chair.
“I’m always very happy to see something so cruel,” said Weissberg. “It’s less cruel than I thought. We’re all prepared for a big, big disaster, and it’s a little less. “
Kunzelman answered it from Newport, Rhode Island. Porter reported from New York. Associate Press Secretary William J. Kole in Warwick, Rhode Island, Michelle Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, Michael R. Sisak and Julie Walker from East Hampton, Will Lester in Washington, Michael Melia in Hartford, Connecticut, Susan Haigh in Norwich, Connecticut, and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York contributed to this report.