Tropical Storm Henri makes landfall in Rhode Island, with 'dangerous' surge on the way

Ten-foot waves on Long Island beaches as tropical storm Henri rolls in

Fox Weather’s Steve Bender gives an update on current conditions from the storm heading into New York.

The center of Tropical Storm Henri made landfall near Westerly, Rhode Island early Sunday afternoon. 

Henri was downgraded to a tropical storm before landfall, as dangerous storm surge, strong gusty winds and flooding rainfall are expected across portions of northeastern United States, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. 

As of 11 a.m. ET, maximum sustained winds registered at 60 mph. 

Flood warnings extended from coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island to the luxurious oceanfront estates of New York’s Hamptons, as tropical storm conditions are spreading inland across portions of New England. 

A weather-flow station in Block Island, Rhode Island reported a sustained wind of 50 mph and a gust of 63 mph. At Point Judith, Rhode Island, sustained winds measured at 43 mph with a gust to 51 mph. 

Great Gull Island, near the eastern end of Long Island, New York, there was a sustained wind of 41 mph and a gust of 56 mph. The National Data Buoy Center’s C-MAN Station in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, measured a sustained wind of 49 mph and a gust to 52 mph. 

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    Tropical Storm Henri makes landfall in Rhode Island, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. (Image: National Hurricane Center) (National Hurricane Center)

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    A truck drives through a flooded Atlantic Ave in Westerly, R.I., as Tropical Storm Henri approaches, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

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

Massachusetts’ Steamship Authority canceled ferry service between the mainland and the popular vacation islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket until at least noon Sunday after the U.S. Coast Guard shut down ports on Cape Cod and New Bedford. Tourists waiting in their cars, hoping for a last-minute ferry off the islands, were stranded until the worst of Henri passes.

The first thunderstorms bringing what could be up to half a foot (15 centimeters) of rain arrived late Saturday, and flash flooding began in some areas overnight. Bands of heavy rain overwhelmed storm drains and drivers plowed through foot-deep water in a few spots in New York City, and Newark and Hoboken, New Jersey.

Tropical storm-intensity winds were beginning to strike the coast Sunday morning. Rising tide threatened to produce dangerous storm surge.

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

Residents and visitors on Fire Island, a narrow strip of sandy villages barely above sea level off Long Island’s southern coast, were urged to evacuate. The last boats out left before 11 p.m. Saturday and officials warned there might be no way to reach people left behind.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, set to leave office Tuesday after resigning over a sexual harassment scandal, emerged Saturday to plead with New York residents to make last-minute preparations.

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

Some gas stations from Cape Cod to Long Island sold out of fuel. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman described a run on supplies like batteries and flashlights as people “are starting to wake up” as weather models showed the storm’s center would run “smack on the town of Southampton.”

Major airports in the region remained open as the storm approached, though hundreds of Sunday’s flights were canceled. Service on some branches of New York City’s commuter rail system was suspended through Sunday, as was Amtrak service between New York and Boston.

The White House said President Joe Biden discussed preparations with northeastern governors and that New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who succeeds Cuomo on Tuesday, also participated.

Biden later began approving emergency declarations with Rhode Island.

New York hasn’t had a direct hit from a powerful cyclone since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in 2012. Some of the most important repairs from that storm have been completed, but many projects designed to protect against future storms remain unfinished.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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