Henri’s lazy remnants hinder cleanup, threaten inland floods

National News

In this photo provided by Mayor Chris Slavicek, emergency personnel and first responders look to help any residents in need after heavy rains from Henri flooded the area, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Helmetta, N.J. (Chris Slavicek via AP)

The slow and sprawling storm system named Henri drenched much of the inland Northeast with rain Monday, hampering cleanup efforts and threatening further flooding in areas with ground already saturated from a wet summer.

Rains from the storm, which spared coastal areas of New York and New England major damage when its center made landfall Sunday in Rhode Island as a tropical storm, deluged areas from New Hampshire to New York City and down to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

More rain was forecast in New Jersey, where much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) had already fallen in some areas by Sunday and some areas were trying to clean up.

In the central New Jersey community of Helmetta, some 200 residents fled for higher ground, taking refuge in hotels or with friends and family, as flood waters inundated their homes Sunday.

“It came so quick — in the blink of an eye,” said Mayor Christopher Slavicek, whose parents were spending the night after fleeing their home. “Now there’s cleanup. So this is far from over.”

In Jamesburg, television video footage showed flooded downtown streets and cars almost submerged. In Newark, Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara said police and firefighters rescued 86 people in 11 incidents related to the storm.

Torrential downpours and new flooding were possible Monday in New England, and there was a chance of tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.

New England officials fretted that just a few more inches of precipitation would be a back-breaker following a summer of record rainfall.

“The ground is so saturated that it can flood with just another inch of rain,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont warned late Sunday.

Lamont was scheduled Monday to tour storm damage in Canterbury, where nearly 95% of Eversource customers lost electricity Sunday. More than 500 homes and businesses there, about 23%, remained without power Monday.

Linda Orlomoski, of Canterbury, was among those without power late Sunday.

“It’s supposed to get nasty hot and humid again on Tuesday,” she said. “If we still have no power by then, that will be miserable.”

The National Hurricane Center said Henri’s remnants were expected to stall near the Connecticut-New York state line, creep eastward through New England and eventually push out to the Atlantic Ocean.

The system, a tropical depression by Monday morning, was moving east at just 1 mph (2 kph).

Flood warnings were in effect Monday morning for parts of northern New Jersey and southeastern New York state, and flood watches stretched throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, parts of Vermont and New Hampshire and New York City.

Rainfall from 1 to 3 inches was forecast over much of the area.

President Joe Biden has declared disasters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, opening the purse strings for federal recovery aid to those states.

“We’re doing everything we can now to help those states prepare, respond and recover,” said the president, who also offered condolences Sunday to Tennessee residents, after severe flooding from an unrelated storm killed at least 22 people and left dozens missing.

When Henri made landfall near Westerly, Rhode Island, it had sustained winds of about 60 mph (97 kph) and gusts as high as 70 mph (110 kph).

It cut power to 140,000 homes, closed bridges, swamped roads and left some people stranded in their vehicles. In Connecticut, about 250 residents from four nursing homes on the shoreline had to be relocated. Several major bridges in Rhode Island were briefly shuttered Sunday, and some coastal roads were nearly impassable.

Beach towns from the Hamptons on Long Island to Cape Cod in Massachusetts exhaled after being spared the worst of the potential damage Sunday. Concerns had been high when Henri was briefly rated a hurricane, with stronger winds and greater potential for a damaging storm, before it was downgraded to a tropical storm.

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