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Northeastern Coastal Towns Prepare For Tropical Storm Henri

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 already buffeting lower New England.

Jeanne-Marie Napolitano is the mayor of Newport, R.I., and joins us now. Thanks for taking the time.

JEANNE-MARIE NAPOLITANO: Thank you. Thank you so much for the input.

DAVIS: What kind of preparations have you been making? And what are you telling your constituents to do right now?

NAPOLITANO: Well, we have been making preparations for at least four days. And it started out with our harbor and then to our residents. We've been using every type of communication that is possible, including our website. So I believe that we are well-prepared.

The last time that we were hit with a hurricane of this size, a Category 2, was a direct hit from Hurricane Bob in 1991. And I believe we've learned a lot of lessons from that. And of course, we're not adverse to having things happen. We were out of gas and heat and electricity a couple of years ago, which made...

DAVIS: What are the lessons you learned from that hurricane?

NAPOLITANO: Well, we learned that we have to prepare early. And that's everybody. And we have every resource available to us ahead of time. Certainly, we have engaged our citizens and asked them to prepare. My understanding - there's no generators left...

DAVIS: Wow.

NAPOLITANO: ...In the surrounding area. And of course, they have the usual things that we ask them to have - the water, the food, medications - ahead of time. So I think we're fairly well-prepared. We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

DAVIS: We spoke to another official in Connecticut earlier who said he's expecting something like Superstorm Sandy, which did a lot of damage. Is that what you're...

NAPOLITANO: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...Bracing for as well?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I just went out for an assessment. And certainly, it was high tide. And it was starting to recede, as far as the water goes. But with 12 hours of rain and another high tide tonight and a full moon, I certainly think that we're going to sustain perhaps some flooding. The wind is really picking up.

This morning, when I was up at 6 o'clock, it was very calm. And now I would imagine - it looks like it's about 30 miles an hour, 40 miles an hour. And this is just the beginning, so I...

DAVIS: What is your biggest worry in terms of your local infrastructure holding up? Is it phone lines, electric lines? Where do you see your vulnerabilities?

NAPOLITANO: Our vulnerability truly is our electric lines. We're at the end of the infrastructure. And anything that goes out ahead of us puts us out first. We experienced that with the electric during the - you know, back - the storm...

DAVIS: Yeah.

NAPOLITANO: ...Two years ago.

DAVIS: Yeah.

NAPOLITANO: So that's what we're worried about - the electric lines.

DAVIS: All right. Well, that is Jeanne-Marie Napolitano. She is the mayor of Newport, R.I.

Mayor, thanks for coming on and speaking to us.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.