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A Voluntary Evacuation Of Fire Island Ordered Ahead Of Henri

Craig Ruttle
AP Photo
Kristen Pavese of Kings Park, N.Y., center right, waits for a ride with her bridesmaids after they departed a ferry in Bay Shore, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, cutting short a bachelorette party weekend on Fire Island. They decided to leave Fire Island t

A voluntary evacuation order is in place for Fire Island, a popular New York summer tourism spot off Long Island’s South Shore. The region’s local governments are preparing for significant flooding from a 6-foot tall storm surge that Henri is expected to bring.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said ferry service to and from vulnerable, low lying communities on Fire Island will be suspended after 10 p.m. Saturday night.

"It is important for residents and visitors to the Fire Island National Seashore to understand and to all the communities that if they do not leave the island today, they will be stuck on the island," Bellone said. "For their safety and again so that emergency personnel can do their work. We are urging people to come off our island today and to evacuate the island.”

Bellone said shelters are opening at nearby schools to accept evacuating families. Near the ferry terminals, lines of cars at gas stations are turned away with pumps out of service.

Henri could bring over 75 mile per hour winds that could down tree branches and kick up debris. Officials say residents may experience up to 10 day power outages. It could also bring significant flooding from a 6-foot tall storm surge.

“If you have to move, if you know you have to stock up, if you know you have to get to higher ground, it has to be today,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a news conference on Saturday. He said he supported Bellone's order.

Cuomo leaves office Monday night. He resigned following a sexual misconduct investigation. Recovery from the damage Henri brings could be the first challenge Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul faces when she becomes governor on Tuesday.

Hochul said she is confident Cuomo will be able to manage the storm response. Cuomo acknowledged the looming transition of power, but also took ownership of the situation for the time being.

“I am governor today and I am in charge," he said. "This is also something I have done a few times.”

He deployed 500 National Guard troops to help communities respond to the damage the storm.

Cuomo also told utility companies they "better be ready."

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.