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Henri Downgraded To A Tropical Storm As The Northeast Coast Prepares For Landfall

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

Henri is headed for the Northeast. The tropical storm spent much of yesterday as a hurricane, having gained strength as it headed for the coast. And today, its winds and rain are buffeting lower New England.

Keith Hedrick is the mayor of Groton, Conn., on the coast at the eastern end of the state. He joins us now. Thanks for taking the time today.

KEITH HEDRICK: Hi. Good morning.

DAVIS: What are things like in Groton right now at this moment?

HEDRICK: We're already seeing heavy bands of rain. There's pooling in low-lying areas. But we've already checked our stormwater drains. We did that as part of prep work. So they're clear, so they can take the rainfall so far.

DAVIS: What other preparations are you making? And what are you telling your constituents about how to weather this storm?

HEDRICK: Well, we ensured that we had supplies. Today, we're going to have a full crew of Groton Utility so that we make sure that we can address any power issues that we have. We also have a double shift of police and a double shift of fire. And the public works guys are standing by to push trees off the road in the event that we have any downed trees or anything like that. Now, of course, the public works will be working with the utility to ensure that there are no wires involved before they push any trees.

And yesterday, I went around and talked to people. There were five streets that I issued a mandatory evacuation for yesterday afternoon, yesterday evening. And I went into those neighborhoods yesterday and talked to people. And some of them decided that they were going to weather it out. And some people said, yep, we're going to leave.

But all the indications that I've been given so far is this is going to be similar to Superstorm Sandy. And Superstorm Sandy was a nor'easter that hit us very hard here. And we're about to hit two high tide cycles. We'll hit one at 9:50 this morning, with a full moon. And we'll hit a second high tide cycle at 10:50 tonight.

DAVIS: New England hasn't seen a hurricane like this make direct landfall in something like three decades. What is your biggest concern right now?

HEDRICK: Well, the biggest concern is because it's been 30 years, I'm not 100% sure what to expect. I mean, we're listening to the Weather Channel. And we're getting personalized updates from different people that are calling in to make sure that we understand what we're really up against. But we're talking potentially a seawall of 3 to 5 feet with a storm surge. That can cause a lot of damage and can cause flooding in homes, particularly in the low-lying areas. And those are the areas that I evacuated or attempted to evacuate.

Hopefully - you know, everybody loves to go see the storm. So I was out this morning at 6:30. And there were people driving out on the road to go near the water to see what it looked like. Now, right now it's anticlimactic. But later on, when the storm hits - it's forecast to get around 2 o'clock this afternoon - and I worry about people that get out in this. And then they may get stranded or something like that - so keeping people safe.

I've recommended that they basically hunker down in their houses. We've already asked people to make sure that you have plenty of food and water and you're good for a couple days. We are very fortunate that we have a local municipal electric utility. So we've become accustomed to only having power outages of a few days max, whereas some of the other places in the state of Connecticut could be without power for two or three weeks, depending on how bad the storm is.

DAVIS: Keith Hedrick is the mayor of Groton, Conn. Thanks so much for your time.

HEDRICK: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.