Mass. Residents Urged to Stay Home, Avoid ‘Disaster Tourism': MEMA Director

"We strongly discourage anyone from what we would describe as disaster tourism," Sam Phillips said. "We'd really like people to stay home and heed the warnings."

NBC Universal, Inc.

The director of Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) urged residents to stay inside Sunday as Tropical Storm Henri moves through the region.

Speaking to NBC10 Boston, Sam Phillips said there are crews activated throughout the commonwealth -- National Guard, state police, and utility companies -- ready to respond to any issues that arise from Henri.

Phillips said they have been prepared for a variety of different hazards associated with the storm.

"We have a high rain event that we're anticipating in central and western Massachusetts," she said. "We have sort of a widespread wind event that we're closely monitoring and the fact that it could lead to power outages and obviously keeping a very close eye on our coast and that coastal advisory."

Despite torrential rain and reports of wind gusts up to 76 mph, people were still out Sunday to watch the storm, with some taking pictures of flooded roadways and others trying to surf at closed beaches.

The director of MEMA said that kind of behavior is strongly discouraged.

"We strongly discourage anyone from what we would describe as disaster tourism," she said. "We'd really like people to stay home and heed the warnings. Governor Baker was very clear, that if you don't have to be on the road today, that you should stay home."

Phillips acknowledged while staying home is advised for your own safety, it also allows crews to very quickly respond to the areas that need attention and mobilize resources.

"We hope that people just stay home and watch it on television," she said.

Atlantic Drive in Edgartown has been shut down due to flooding from storm surge.

With reports of downed trees and flooded roads, Phillips reiterated people should stay home. If they do go out, she reminded everyone to not touch any downed wires that could be energized and to turn around if you encounter flooded streets.

"Stay home, stay inside. We hope people are prepared at this point," she said. "The final preparedness action today, I think the best thing is to keep devices such as cell phones, tablets, whatever technology you use to stay informed, charged. If you do lose power, it would be great to have fully charged devices."

As of noon Sunday, over 100,000 customers were without power, including 6,800 in Massachusetts.

While Phillips acknowledged there could be "lulls" with this storm, she wanted people to know it may be temporary, so stay home and take the precautions.

"If there's a lull in the system, it's a temporary lull. This is gonna be along duration event well into Monday," she said. "So if you're not seeing or feeling the impact at this moment, it doesn't mean that you wont in the next hour or as we head into the afternoon and evening hours."

While Henri was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm around 7 a.m. Sunday and showed signs of steadily weakening during the early afternoon, Phillips stressed the importance of not losing sight of how powerful even tropical depressions can be.

"Please don't get hung up on what it's called or hurricane tropical storm or even as it continues to get downgraded to a tropical depression as it moves further north that's going to happen but the storm still is going to have impacts as a wind and rain event," she said. "When we talk about tropical systems we often focus on the wind, I don't want people to lose sight of the water. This is going to be a storm that brings a lot of water."

Contact Us