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DEM Announces Preparations to Keep Rhode Islanders and Visitors Safe from the Impacts of Tropical Storm Henri

PROVIDENCE – With the National Weather Service increasingly confident that Tropical Storm Henri will make landfall on the southern New England coast Sunday into Monday, by which time it might strengthen into a hurricane, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today is announcing several preparations aimed at keeping Rhode Islanders and visitors safe from storm impacts.

State beaches: Rip currents and high surf

- As Governor McKee stated at today's press briefing, DEM anticipates that state beaches will remain open on Saturday but will likely close on Sunday with a delayed opening of 12 PM on Monday, August 23. DEM will monitor beaches closely on Saturday, with managers and lifeguards using discretion in allowing swimming with restrictions (ankle-deep, knee-deep, or waist-deep) depending on conditions.

- DEM urges the public to use caution along shoreline areas from now until the storm passes due to anticipated rip currents and high surf. Rhode Island often experiences needless tragedy during storms when wave-watchers or anglers who have climbed onto rocks near the shore get hit by waves, are quickly swept out to deep water, and drown.

State parks:

- Facilities and amenities at state parks will be open Saturday but closed on Sunday.

- DEM will be barricading the entrances to Beavertail State Park in Jamestown and the Camp Cronin Fishing Area in Narragansett – the sites of recent drownings – to be very clear that the public should not be there.

State campgrounds:

- State campgrounds will be closed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Staff will assess storm damage and clean up on Monday. This would be hard to do with campers coming back into the grounds.

Dams:

- Dam owners and operators are responsible for maintaining the safety of their dams. DEM asks owners to inspect dams to make sure that spillways and downstream channels are free and clear of obstructions before the storm.

- Because of predicted damaging winds and heavy rainfalls, DEM asks owners and operators to monitor dams for any potentially unsafe conditions, including overturned trees, an elevated pond that may lead to overtopping the dam, new or additional leakage through the dam, or movement of the dam.

- Dam owners do not need state or local government approval to temporarily release extra water from their dams before or during a storm if they believe it is necessary to ensure the safety of the dam. It is critical for owners and operators to notify the local emergency management officials or police/fire of the actions they may take so that local officials are aware of potential downstream impacts.

- DEM instructs dam owners to report any unsafe conditions to local emergency management officials and to DEM's 24-hour emergency number at 222-3070. After the storm, owners are instructed to notify DEM's Dam Safety Program at 222-1360 of any storm-related damage that may have occurred at their dams.

Pet sheltering:

- After Hurricane Katrina, federal and state officials learned that some pet owners who stayed put when told to evacuate did so because they did not have a place to go with their pets. This resulted in people being killed or needing rescue. The purpose of emergency pet sheltering is to ensure that people will evacuate and get out of harm's way. If you are told to evacuate, do so, but bring your pet with you. If you need to stay at a shelter, you will need to first bring your pet to your local municipal animal shelter. Under no circumstances should pets be left behind. People who own livestock and horses likely can't evacuate, so they should start making provisions to shelter in place. See http://www.dem.ri.gov/topics/erp/6_8.pdf for more specific information and advice.

State Port of Galilee:

- DEM has notified commercial fishermen berthed at Galilee to secure boats and remove all items from docks.

Cancellations:

- The farmers' market scheduled to be held Sunday at Fishermen's Memorial Campground in Narragansett has been canceled as has the Come Clam with Me class that was set for Monday at Colt State Park.