People disembark from a ferry in Bay Shore, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, as it arrived from Fire Island. An evacuation order by the end of the day was ordered for the island due to the potential of damage due to incoming Hurricane Henri. Credit: Craig Ruttle / AP

Tropical Storm Henri hit the coast of Rhode Island Sunday afternoon, packing high winds that knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and bands of rain that led to flash flooding from New Jersey to Massachusetts.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch and storm surge in those areas, and warns that Maine may see strong surf, dangerous surf conditions and heavy rain.

The storm had top winds of 70 mph in an 8 a.m. EDT update from the U.S. National Hurricane Center, just shy of hurricane status.

As of 2 p.m. Henri has weakened to 50 mph winds and is moving more slowly at just 9 mph, according to CBS 13

Much of Rhode Island is without power as they battle heavy rain and strong winds.

Maximum winds were reported over Block Island Sound at Point Judith in Rhode Island at 70 mph around noon Sunday. However, much lower wind gusts are expected in New Hampshire and western Maine through Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service in Gray, with 25 mph gusts expected in Portland and 26 mph gusts in Rockland.

Bands of heavy rain and thunderstorms are also expected Sunday through Tuesday.

A High Surf Advisory is in effect from noon Sunday until 8 a.m. Monday for coastal Down East.  Maine will see scattered rain showers into the region, specifically across the coast.  Meanwhile, the northern regions will see cloudy skies with warm, humid conditions, according to the NWS in Caribou.

But the storm is expected to decrease in intensity significantly as it passes through Maine.

“By the time the storm circulation comes over Maine, it’s going to be a pretty weak blow,” Donny Dumont of NWS Gray told the Portland Press Herald on Saturday.

Elsewhere in New England, officials in Providence, Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, closed giant hurricane barriers that were built in the 1960s, after devastating storms in 1938 and 1954.

Massachusetts’ Steamship Authority canceled all Sunday ferry service between the mainland and the popular vacation islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket after the U.S. Coast Guard shut down ports on Cape Cod and New Bedford. Tourists waiting in their cars, hoping for a last-minute ferry off the islands, were stranded until the worst of Henri passes.

Major airports in the region remained open as the storm approached, though hundreds of Sunday’s flights were canceled. Service on some branches of New York City’s commuter rail system was suspended through Sunday, as was Amtrak service between New York and Boston.

Residents and visitors on Fire Island, a narrow strip of sandy villages barely above sea level off Long Island’s southern coast, were urged to evacuate. The last boats left before 11 p.m. Saturday and officials warned there might be no way to reach people left behind.

The evacuation threw a wrench into Kristen Pavese’s planned Fire Island bachelorette party. The group of 10 had intended to celebrate Saturday night, but ended up leaving on the ferry just a day after arriving. They had planned to stay until Monday.

“I’m upset about it, but it’s the weather. It’s nothing I can control,” said Pavese, a Long Island resident. “I’ve been going to Fire Island for a long time, so I’m sort of familiar with this happening.”

Approaching severe weather Saturday night also cut short a superstar-laden concert in Central Park. The show headlined by Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Jennifer Hudson was meant to celebrate New York City’s recovery from the coronavirus. But officials asked concertgoers to leave the park during Barry Manilow’s set amid the threat of lightning.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, set to leave office Monday after resigning over a sexual harassment scandal, emerged Saturday to plead with New York residents to make last-minute preparations, warning that heavy rain, wind and storm surge from Henri could be as devastating as Superstorm Sandy back in 2012.

“We have short notice. We’re talking about tomorrow,” Cuomo said in one of his final forays before TV cameras, a setting that shot him to fame during the worst of the pandemic last year. “So if you have to move, if you have to stock up, if you have to get to higher ground, it has to be today. Please.”

Gov. Ned Lamont warned Connecticut residents they should prepare to “shelter in place” from Sunday afternoon through at least Monday morning as the state braces for the first possible direct hit from a hurricane in decades. Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee issued a similar warning.

Major airports in the region remained open as the storm approached, though hundreds of Sunday’s flights were canceled. Service on some branches of New York City’s commuter rail system was suspended through Sunday, as was Amtrak service between New York and Boston.

The White House said President Joe Biden discussed preparations with northeastern governors and that New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who succeeds Cuomo on Tuesday, also participated.

Biden later began approving emergency declarations with Rhode Island.

New York hasn’t had a direct hit from a powerful cyclone since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in 2012. Some of the most important repairs from that storm have been completed, but many projects designed to protect against future storms remain unfinished.

With maximum sustained winds at 70 mph, Henri was moving north at 18 mph as of Sunday morning. It was about 50 miles south-southeast of Montauk Point on the tip of Long Island.

Some gas stations from Cape Cod to Long Island sold out of fuel. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman described a run on supplies like batteries and flashlights as people “are starting to wake up” as weather models showed the storm’s center would run “smack on the town of Southampton.”

Regardless of its exact landfall, broad impacts were expected across a large swath of the Northeast, extending inland to Hartford, Connecticut, and Albany, New York, and eastward to Cape Cod, which is teeming with tens of thousands of summer tourists.

Storm surge between 3 and 5 feet was possible in much of Long Island Sound all the way to Chatham, Massachusetts, and slightly less on Long Island’s Atlantic coast, the hurricane center said. Flash flooding was possible in inland areas already saturated by recent rain.

In the Hamptons, the celebrity playground on Long Island’s east end, officials warned of dangerous rip currents and flooding that’s likely to turn streets like the mansion-lined Dune Road into lagoons.

“We have a lot of wealthy people. There’s no doubt that we do, but everybody pulls together in an emergency,” Schneiderman said. “So, you know, yeah, there are people hanging out on their yachts at the moment drinking martinis, but they’re also starting to talk about this storm and I’m sure they’re going to want to be helpful.”

Michael Hill, The Associated Press. Associated Press writers Mallika Sen and Larry Neumeister in New York, Mike Melia in Hartford, Connecticut, and Mark Pratt in Waltham, Massachusetts, and BDN’s Rosemary Lausier contributed to this report.