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Henri Makes Landfall In Rhode Island, Connecticut Gets Wind And Rain

Tropical Storm Henri made landfall near Westerly, Rhode Island, Sunday, before moving northwest across Connecticut bringing wind and rain.

Millions of people on New York’s Long Island and in southern New England braced for flooding, toppled trees and extended power outages. But while some estimates predicted two-thirds of Connecticut without power, electric utility Eversource says just roughly 32,000 of its customers were without power at the peak Sunday — that’s about 2.5% of its customers.

In a 1 p.m. briefing, the state said four nursing homes had been evacuated and their 200-plus residents moved to an alternative site. Just before 2 p.m., the storm appeared to have left clearing skies in eastern Connecticut as it made its way northwest across the state.

By 6 p.m., Gov. Ned Lamont said the storm did the state a favor by moving eastward. But he said rains could still cause damage.

“The winds are dissipating but the rains are with us, and there’s a real risk of flash flooding,” he said. “The ground is so saturated that it can flood with just another inch of rain.”

Lamont also said that power outages — which were far less than anticipated — should be quickly resolved.

“The good news is that, if we have, you know, 28,000 folks still without power, I’ve had strong assurances from Joe Nolan and Eversource that the overwhelming majority — 90-plus percent — will have their power restored by this time tomorrow,” he said.

Connecticut Feared — And Spared — The Worst

As Henri approached Connecticut, the National Hurricane Center called for strong gusty winds and flooding. Emergency personnel in shoreline town Old Saybrook were concerned in recent days with flooding, particularly in low-lying areas, and actually knocked on doors this weekend to order residents to evacuate their homes.

“While some of the people who are inland a couple neighborhoods, their homes may be fine, except for some downed trees and wires, they are not going to be able to leave their homes because the road leaving there is going to have a couple feet of water on it,” said JT Dunn, past chief of the Old Saybrook Fire Department.

Water did spill onto land around high tide Sunday morning at Saybrook Point, but only briefly. In advance of the storm, Eversource anticipated some 69% of its customer base could be without electricity for days. But that didn’t come to pass.

New Haven was expecting the full force of the storm. But the storm took a turn west. Gallo Gutierrez had one of the best seats in the house. He parked his car right up against the water at East Shore Park.

“Just relaxing and enjoying the rain,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez wasn’t too worried about his house flooding. Nor was Craig Morgan, parked one car over.

“I was worried about losing power, but I’m not worried about that anymore,” Morgan said. “I’m just down here, ’cause what else are you gonna do on a rainy day?”

Morgan keeps track of these things as a boater, and he said he didn’t even bother to take his boat out of the water.

Though the storm largely missed the city, Mayor Justin Elicker said he doesn’t want residents to ignore preparedness warnings.

“I don’t want people to take the message that the city of New Haven overprepares so much that you shouldn’t take things seriously,” he said.

Because, he said, the fact that New Haven wasn’t in the eye of the storm was just good luck.

Dire Predictions

The downgraded storm could still have had significant impacts, said Connecticut Public Radio meteorologist Garett Argianas.

“Even with that downgrade from a hurricane to a tropical storm, those of us across New England understand that tropical storms can still have very harsh results,” he said.

The National Weather Service said early Sunday that it was expecting “dangerous storm surge inundation” in portions of the region and that heavy rainfall could lead to “flash, urban and small stream flooding,” along with some river flooding. Swells from the storm “could cause life-threatening surf and rip currents,” the agency said.

Rain and flooding began in some areas late Saturday. Storm surges were also expected early Sunday, but that concern faded as the day progressed.

Late Saturday, Gov. Ned Lamont banned travel on I-95 for empty tractor trailers, tandem tractor trailers and motorcycles as of 11 a.m. Sunday. He lifted that ban effective 5 p.m. Sunday. All service on Shore Line East was to be suspended early Sunday morning. Lamont has already submitted a request for a “presidential pre-landfall emergency declaration” for the state.

Updated: August 22, 2021 at 1:16 PM EDT
Information from the Associated Press was included in this report. This story will be updated.
Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.
Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.
If you read any of Frankie Graziano’s previous biographies, they’d be all about his passion for sports. But times change – and he’s a family man now.
Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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