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Flights canceled, thousands without power as Tropical Storm Henri makes landfall

Although airports remained open, more than 1,000 flights in or out of or within the U.S. had been canceled Sunday as the storm made landfall near Rhode Island.
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Tropical Storm Henri made landfall at 12:15 p.m. Sunday near Westerly, Rhode Island, the National Hurricane Center said, as thousands of customers already without power braced for the full effect of the storm.

Winds of 60 mph were reported at the time of landfall, the NHC said.

Tropical storm warnings extended from coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island to the luxurious oceanfront estates of the Hamptons on the eastern end of Long Island, New York, The Associated Press reported.

More than 100,000 power outages were reported for customers up the northern East Coast as of 5:00 p.m. Sunday, with most of them in Rhode Island. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire also reported outages.In New Jersey, at least 86 people were rescued from flooded vehicles related to the tropical storm by Sunday afternoon, according to the Newark Department of Public Safety.

Although the storm had been downgraded from a hurricane, many parts of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts were experiencing heavy rain, which could cause major flooding and wind gusts of up to 75 mph.

Paul and Cherie Saunders, of Newport, Rhode Island, said they would stay at a home their family had owned since the 1950s. During Superstorm Sandy, the couple's basement flooded with 5 feet of water.

"This house has been through so many hurricanes, and so many things have happened," Cherie Saunders, 68, told The Associated Press. "We're just going to wait and see what happens."

Just before 4:30 p.m. Sunday, President Joe Biden spoke about the efforts to aid those affected by the tropical storm.

"I want to thank these crews for their commitment to helping their fellow citizens in their time of need," Biden said.

Biden encouraged those in the storm's path to prepare and to monitor the storm from their homes. He also encouraged everyone to abide by social distancing measures and masking mandates to keep everyone safe from the delta variant of the coronavirus.

"Don't get caught by the next storm. Get vaccinated now. Protect your family from Covid-19," he said.

A 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center said the storm had weakened slightly while moving across Connecticut. Henri was expected to stall over the New York-Connecticut border Sunday night before heading for southern Massachusetts Monday. Heavy rain and flooding is expected across the region overnight, the agency said.

Experts said the storm surge is a greater danger than the wind.

Ahead of landfall, Paul Muniz, 61, secured his boat. Muniz, who lives near a marina, told The Associated Press that he spent $50,000 to elevate his home 9 feet off the ground. He said he was staying put for the storm.

"I've lived here for 32 years, had an opportunity to move a number of times, but you know, it's a very special place," he said.

It appeared that most major airports in the path of the storm remained open Sunday, but hundreds of flights had been canceled. FlightAware, a flight-tracking website, reported that more than 1,000 flights in or out of or within the U.S. had been canceled.

In New York City, heavy rain from Saturday night into Sunday morning caused some infrastructure issues, as water poured into a train station in Queens. Several commuter train lines in New York City were suspended ahead of the storm, including lines on Metro-North, the Long Island Railroad and Amtrak.

As of Sunday morning, pre-landfall states of emergency had been approved for New York and Connecticut.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference Sunday that the projected rainfall by Monday morning in New York City would be about 2 inches. He said that in the Hudson Valley region upstate, as much as 5 inches might fall.

Cuomo warned that the storm could slow or stall after it hit Long Island and warned that because the ground was already saturated and the absorption ability of the ground was limited, minor flooding had already begun in parts of Long Island.

"A slow storm is a problematic storm," Cuomo said. "When the storm slows, it continues to drop rain for an extended period of time."

Cuomo announced Saturday that water rescue teams were being prepared for Long Island, the Hudson Valley and Westchester County north of New York City.

He also deployed 500 National Guard troops, and state police had about 1,000 personnel on duty in areas that could be severely affected. Cuomo added Sunday that 500 pieces of equipment had been deployed ahead of landfall; he did not specify what the equipment was.

He compared Henri to 2012's Superstorm Sandy, the effects of which are still being felt in the New York City area.

"Superstorm Sandy, which we all remember, was also a Category 1 when it hit New York state," Cuomo said. "So just to put it in perspective how serious this is and how dangerous it is."

Some New Yorkers said they were looking forward to the storm and watching the weather event roll in.

"I'm always excited about seeing something as ferocious as this," said Norbert Weissberg, of East Hampton. "It's less ferocious than I thought. We're all geared up for a major, major calamity, and it's a little less than that."

As the storm neared, officials in cities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts closed giant hurricane barriers built in the 1960s, which were constructed after storms in 1938 and 1954.

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee urged residents to stay home Sunday and into Monday morning.

"We consider this a serious matter," McKee said at a news conference Saturday.

Gov. Ned Lamont warned Connecticut residents that they should prepare to shelter in place from Sunday afternoon through at least Monday morning as the state braced for the first possible direct hit from a hurricane in decades.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker expressed relief Saturday that the latest models suggest that Henri would not make a direct hit.

But Baker and McKee warned at separate briefings that high winds and heavy rain still could lead to widespread and lengthy power outages.

On Saturday, the storm caused severe weather, which interrupted a concert in New York City.

Singer Barry Manilow was in the middle of his performance at the "We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert" in Central Park when fans were abruptly told to evacuate after lightning was seen nearby. The concert had been intended to celebrate the city's recovery from the coronavirus.

New York police tweeted that fans needed to evacuate but that it was "NOT an emergency."

In other parts of New York, like Suffolk County in eastern Long Island, residents and tourists were asked to participate in a voluntary evacuation ahead of landfall.

The last major hurricane strike on New England was about 30 years ago. Hurricane Bob, which made landfall on parts of New England in 1991, resulted in 17 deaths and $1.5 billion in damage. Long Island has not had a direct hit from a hurricane since Gloria in 1985; it caused eight deaths and nearly $1 billion in damage.

A storm surge warning was in effect from Flushing, New York, to Chatham, Massachusetts, including the south and north shores of Long Island, the National Hurricane Center said. Some parts of Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts were under hurricane warnings or hurricane watches.