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Residents on the US East Coast have been urged to prepare for one of the most powerful storms in years.

Hurricane Henri, which has strengthened from a tropical storm, is expected to hit New York's Long Island and southern parts of New England on Sunday.

Winds of up to 75mph (120km/h) and as much as six inches (15cm) of rainfall are expected. Officials warn there could be "significant damage".

Hurricanes are rare for this part of the US coastline.

New England was last hit, by Hurricane Bob, in 1991, causing the deaths of 17 people.

  • Above-average hurricane season expected

"We need to take this storm very seriously. Even if it doesn't make landfall as a hurricane, the tropical force winds and the storm surge can cause significant damage," Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN.

"We're going to see power outages, we're going to see downed trees, and even after the storm has passed, the threat of falling trees and limbs is still out there."

About six million people living near the coast in parts of Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts have been issued with hurricane warnings.

More than 36 million people in large parts of southern New England as well as New York and New Jersey have received tropical storm warnings.

Massachusetts will close its parks and beaches from Saturday to Monday, the office of Governor Charlie Baker said on Friday.

With about 300,000 people predicted to lose electricity, officials urged "all residents… to begin storm preparations today, and to pay close attention to local weather".