© Reuters. A satellite image shows Tropical Storm Henri over the Atlantic Ocean and approaching the east coast of the United States on August 21, 2021. NOAA / Handout via REUTERS
By Leela de Kretser
AMAGANSETT, NY (Reuters) – The U.S. east coast braced itself to take a direct hit from Hurricane Henri on Saturday as it threatened to hit the region with fierce winds and heavy rain that could potentially cause storm surge and flooding. deadly, “the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
As of Saturday afternoon, the storm was gaining strength, with winds of 120 kph (75 mph) as it moved north about 210 miles east of North Carolina. On his current trajectory, Henri was expected to make landfall on Long Island, New York or southern New England on Sunday, the center said in an advisory.
More than 42 million people in the region were under a hurricane or tropical storm warning on Saturday, the NHC said.
Parts of Long Island, New York, and New Haven, Connecticut, were under hurricane and storm surge warnings. Other parts of New England, such as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, were under storm surge and tropical storm watch and warnings.
“This is a life-threatening situation. People located within these areas must take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the possibility of other dangerous conditions,” the NHC said.
New York City, the largest city in the United States, was under a tropical storm warning. Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents in a Twitter post to stay home on Sunday and use public transportation if they need to travel.
Emergency management officials said heavy rains and damaging winds could flood roads and reduce visibility over the weekend.
“Secure outdoor items and make sure you’re in a safe place before the wind and rain start!” New York City Emergency Management Commissioner John Scrivani wrote in a tweet Saturday. .
The center warned that Henri could produce storm surges of 3 to 5 feet along the New England coast, wind gusts of 75 mph or more, and rain of 3 to 6 inches 10 inches in isolated areas.
NAKED STRIPED SHELVES
In the small Hampton hamlet of Amagansett, New York, home to Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin and Gwyneth Paltrow, normally wealthy residents packed supermarkets, hardware stores and liquor stores on Saturday morning.
At the IGA supermarket, the shelves were stripped of toilet paper, paper towels and other supplies. Motorists waited in long lines at gas stations while stores ran out of flashlights.
Some of the more patient shoppers formed a long line at the Balsam Farm booth, which was packed with eager shoppers filling bags with heirloom tomatoes, organic zucchini, $ 9 free-range eggs and artisan mozzarella.
Michael Cinque, the owner of Amagansett Wine & Spirit, deliberated about covering his store windows as shoppers came and went with bottles of tequila, vodka and other expensive spirits.
“You always have to be prepared,” said Cinque, who has owned the store for 42 years and also volunteers as an emergency responder. “You have to take it seriously.”
In his back warehouse, he swapped the boxes of rosé wine to get closer to a wooden board listing every hurricane and “big” the liquor store had weathered, dating back to the New England hurricane of September 1938.
The last entry on the Cinque board was 1985, when six hurricanes made landfall in the United States, tying with 1886 and 2020 for the record.
Cinque recalls that the city was hit hard back then by a series of storms. One of them was even named Henri.
When asked if he thought this Henri could cause so much damage, he said that he was preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
“This is a low zone. It all depends on the timing. It’s a full moon and high tide, so if it hits …” he said. “Pull up your pants.”
Newport, Rhode Island, a coastal boating community of 25,000 people, was also in high demand for sump pumps, flashlights and generators.
“They are building on past experiences,” Newport Hardware sales associate Hank Lopes told the Newport Daily News. “In low-lying areas like here, people’s basements will flood even during a small storm, not to mention what could be headed here.”
Eversource, Connecticut’s largest electric utility, has warned residents to be prepared for power outages for up to five to 10 days.
“I need to ask for patience,” Eversource president and CEO Joe Nolan said during a news conference Friday, calling Henri “a very, very serious storm.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday afternoon. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont activated the National Guard in their states to assist in potential rescue efforts, debris clearance and public safety.
(Writing and additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Daniel Wallis and Diane Craft)