Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 27, 2011

Irene NY mass transit shutdown and evacuations proceed as planned.

New York Prepares Shelters, Transit Shutdown as Irene Approaches
August 27, 2011, 11:45 AM EDT
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By Henry Goldman
(For more on the hurricane, {EXT5 }.)

Aug. 27 (Bloomberg) — New York City officials opened shelters for residents from low-lying neighborhoods and prepared for a noon shutdown of mass transit as Hurricane Irene neared the most-populous U.S. metropolitan area.

As much as 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain and a storm surge accompanied by high tides are forecast for tonight as Irene swirled up the East Coast after making landfall at Cape Lookout, North Carolina. The New York area’s first hurricane warnings since 1985 extended from the New Jersey coast through Connecticut to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island off Massachusetts.

New York City officials expect a “strong” Category 1 storm with winds as strong as 75 miles an hour, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a televised 9:30 a.m. news conference in Coney Island, a neighborhood facing mandatory evacuation.

“You have to leave right now,” Bloomberg told 370,000 residents ordered to vacate areas including Manhattan’s Battery Park City and the Rockaways in Queens. “No matter how much it weakens, this is going to be a life-threatening storm.”

Consolidated Edison, the city’s electricity provider, said it may have to shut power to the areas before the hurricane hits, which would leave a wide swath of the city dark tonight. Many shops had closed by the time the mayor made his appeal to evacuate.

Bloomingdale’s Prepares

At Bloomingdale’s on Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue, workers boarded up sidewalk display windows with plywood. Firefighters assisted in removing 7,000 nursing-home residents and hospital patients from areas most at risk, Bloomberg said.

President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration for the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area as the storm threatened to inflict the worst destruction in the Northeast since Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would suspend all service on subways, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad and buses. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will close Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia airports to arrivals at the same time and halt PATH trains.

Cuomo said he was calling out as many as 900 members of the Army and Air National Guard, according to an e-mailed statement. He also said bridges, including the George Washington span over the Hudson River, would be closed if wind speeds exceed 60 miles (97 kilometers) an hour.

New Jersey Suspensions

All New Jersey commuter rail service will be suspended at noon, Governor Chris Christie said.

“Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park,” Christie said yesterday at a news conference at state police headquarters in West Trenton. “Get out. You’re done. You’ve maximized your tan.”

Christie widened mandatory evacuations to include towns in Monmouth County north of Manasquan Inlet, the northern end of the Intracoastal Waterway. Earlier he ordered people out of Atlantic County, where Atlantic City is the second-largest U.S. gambling center.

New York City residents at highest risk of flooding must leave by 5 p.m. today, Bloomberg said during a City Hall news briefing. It’s the first time New Yorkers have been ordered to leave their homes before a storm, he said.

At Battery Park City, a high-rise development near the southern tip of Manhattan, home to almost 40,000, a 7:30 p.m. high tide will coincide with the storm’s early advance. A storm surge that might flood building basements and knock out power poses a danger to residents and could hinder access by emergency workers, requiring evacuation, the mayor said.

Special Threat

The 70,000 people who live in Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park in Queens are under special threat because they are linked to higher ground by bridges that may be closed in high winds, the mayor said.

“Heed these warnings and get yourself to safety before this storm hits,” Bloomberg said. “Staying behind is foolish and it’s against the law.”

The city has opened shelters with enough space to accommodate 70,000, the mayor said. As of this morning, about 400 had sought refuge, said Julie Wood, a mayoral spokeswoman.

A converted elementary-school cafeteria in Long Island City, Queens, offered 30 cots set up in rows, each emblazoned with the city seal. The center also had stocks of pet food, pet- litter kits, and a kitchen with cereal, milk, sandwiches and soft drinks.

Evidence that the mayor’s warnings may go unheeded could be seen in the lights on in Coney Island high-rise apartments across the street from where Bloomberg held his news conference.

“I got the sense that people felt safe to stay,” said Councilman Mike Nelson, who represents neighboring Brighton Beach. Most of these residents have remained in their homes, he said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.

–With assistance from Peter S. Green, Alexis Leondis, Michelle Kaske, Nina Mehta and Elizabeth Ody in New York, Terrence Dopp in New Jersey, Paul Burkhardt in New York and Alison Vekshin in San Francisco. Editors: Jerry Hart, Mark Tannenbaum

To contact the reporters on this story: Esme E. Deprez in New York at edeprez@bloomberg.net; Henry Goldman in New York at hgoldman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

Read more in William Sargent’s “Just Seconds From the Ocean; Coastal Living in the wake of Katrina,” available at thsi site through comments.


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