Tropical Storm Henri barrels towards US north-east coast

Overnight heavy rains from Tropical Storm Henri leave John Street and Railroad Avenue flooded in Helmetta, New Jersey, US, on Aug 22, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Tropical Storm Henri was on course to make landfall on the US east coast on Sunday (Aug 22), with millions in New England and New York's Long Island preparing for flash floods, violent winds and power outages.

The US National Hurricane Centre said in its 7am advisory that Henri was 80km south-east of Montauk Point in New York state. Forecasters downgraded Henri from a hurricane, but warned of heavy rainfall and the risk of surging seas as the storm churned in the Atlantic, packing maximum sustained winds of 112km per hour.

A swathe of the north-eastern coastline, including New York City, was under alert as the storm approached. If Henri is upgraded again, then it would be the first hurricane to hit New England in 30 years.

Nasty weather that preceded Henri late on Saturday forced New York City to halt a star-studded Central Park concert billed as a "homecoming" for a metropolis hard hit by the pandemic.

The approaching then hurricane had prompted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to announce a state of emergency and the deployment of 500 National Guard soldiers in anticipation of response efforts.

He said the storm was expected to make landfall on Long Island around noon on Sunday. "It will be about a 26-hour event," Mr Cuomo added, telling New Yorkers to expect "significant power outages" and "significant flooding" in some suburbs of the Big Apple.

Henri was anticipated to miss New York City by several kilometres, but still caused tropical storm conditions that began on Saturday night. The National Weather Service said 4.9cm of rain fell in the park between 10pm and 11pm on Saturday, the wettest hour on record in New York City.

Officials in New England - which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont - have warned people to get ready.

"The last hurricane to make landfall onto New England was Hurricane Bob in 1991," Mr Dennis Feltgen, an NHC spokesman, said. That storm killed at least 17 people.

It has been almost a decade since such severe weather threatened the region.

"The last time we had hurricane watches issued for the area was for Hurricane Irene, back in late August of 2011," tweeted the National Weather Service in New York City.

The last hurricane to make landfall in Long Island was Gloria in 1985.

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