Cleanup begins in soggy Northeast as Henri plods back to sea
Monroe Township, N.J. — Residents across the waterlogged Northeast began clearing mud and tearing out sodden carpets Monday after deluges dropped by Tropical Storm Henri, whose remnants threatened further flooding in New England as the system made a slow trek back to the sea.
The smell of sewage filled the air as residents of Rossmoor, a retirement community in central New Jersey's Monroe Township, returned to soaked homes and ruined possessions after Henri turned their streets into rivers.
Roseann and John Kiernan said they’d have to likely toss their appliances, tear up walls and carpets and replace their car after their house filled with nearly 2 feet of water on Sunday.
“This is what we were left with. Nothing, nothing,” lamented Roseann Kiernan. “They told us that everything has to go.”
A few miles away from Monroe, the whirring of portable pumps split the air on the main street in Jamesburg, another hard-hit New Jersey community.
Luke Becker, co-owner of the Four Boys ice cream stand, said nearly 4 feet of water rushed into the shop, dislodging a tall cooler and leaving 3 inches of mud behind.
“We were initially hoping to be back open by Labor Day, but now it looks like we’ve got to go through all the plumbing and rip out a ton of electrical because we don’t know how much of that was affected,” he said. “Right now there’s really no timetable.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy toured the storm-ravaged towns Monday, which remained under a flood warning until midnight.
Henri spared coastal areas of New York and New England major damage when its center made landfall Sunday in Rhode Island. But its size and slow speed led to deluges in areas from Maine to Pennsylvania.
On Monday, Henri's remnants, now considered a post-tropical cyclone, were moving eastward over New England at a leisurely 9 mph but were expected to accelerate later, prompting flood watches or warnings across swaths of the Northeast.
In the Catskills region of New York, Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg believed his mountain community, which was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, would be able to weather the slow-moving storm.
“I think we escaped any kind of danger so far only because of the length of time it took for the storm to move through,” he said. “This has been a 24-hour period, so it’s not really the same storm, thank goodness.”
But downpours, flooding and even tornadoes were still possible in New England, where officials fretted that just a few more inches would be a back-breaker following a summer of record rainfall.
“The ground is so saturated with water that every inch of rain creates immediate floods and flash floods,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday after seeing damage in the community of Canterbury, where nearly every home lost power Sunday amid heavy winds.
No deaths have been attributed to Henri, but thousands remained without power across the region as crews scrambled to remove toppled trees and power lines through Monday.
President Joe Biden has declared disasters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut, opening the purse strings for federal recovery aid to those states.
Annette Landry, a resident of Manchester, Connecticut, a Hartford suburb some 40 miles inland, hoped Monday’s rains wouldn’t be a repeat of the deluge that left three units in her condo complex under a few inches of water Sunday.
Firefighters said they helped evacuate 18 homes and made several rescues after Henri dumped about 5 inches of rain.
“It was a tragedy that this happened, because the people who live here are people who can ill afford to live anywhere else,” said Landry, a 72-year-old retiree whose second-floor home was spared.
In central New Jersey, Dolores Hebert was still shaken Monday after being ferried to safety by boat with her dog and cat as 8 inches of rain fell and water surged through the streets in Rossmoor.
“I was sleeping and when I woke up, it was up to my knees,” the 76-year-old said as she stood by a front door bearing 18-inch-high watermarks. “I didn’t know what to do. I panicked.”
Associated Press writers Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, Michael Hill in Albany and Philip Marcelo in Boston contributed to this report.