Before Hurricane Irene Hits, New York Planning To Shut Down Transportation System, Evacuate Areas

1 Hurricane Coverage: New York City is planning to shut down the entire transportation system on Shabbos in anticipation of Hurricane Irene’s arrival, officials revealed Thursday.

A mandatory evacuation of all nursing homes in flood-prone areas of the city was also ordered Thursday.

The monster storm is expected hit New York as a Category 1 storm sometime Sunday, barreling in with winds of 90 miles-per-hour and torrential rains.

Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday that it was “very conceivable” that he will order a mandatory evacuation of all low-lying areas of the city by Saturday.

“The storm is predicted to be very dangerous,” the mayor said.

As the storm finished ravaging the Bahamas Thursday and set its wicked eye straight for the Carolina coastline, city and state officials were busy preparing for the worst:

* Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency to free up resources and take advantage of federal assistance.

* The MTA took the unprecedented move of setting its hurricane plan in motion, which calls for a complete shutdown of subways, trains and buses when sustained winds reach at least 39 mph.

* The mayor ordered the mandatory evacuation of nursing homes, care facilities for the elderly and hospitals in low-lying areas by 8 p.m. Friday.

* The MTA warned bridges could be closed for safety reasons due to high winds.

* More than 300 street fairs and other city permitted events scheduled for this weekend were cancelled.

“We recommend people start going to less vulnerable areas,” Bloomberg said at a news conference Thursday.

He said a decision will be made by Saturday morning on whether to call for a mandatory evacuation of all low-lying areas in what he referred to as “Zone A,” which includes Coney Island, the Rockaways and Battery Park City.

He said about 250,000 New Yorkers live in Zone A, which also includes South Beach and Midland Beach in Staten Island.

Bloomberg said five hospitals in Zone A are also required to evacuate, including Coney Island Hospital.

“Tonight, Coney Island Hospital … will begin placing patients in vacant beds in other hospitals in other parts of the city,” Bloomberg said Thursday.

“We are also notifying the other hospitals in the other Zone A areas as well as nursing homes and senior centers that they must – I repeat, must – evacuate beginning tomorrow and complete the process by 9 p.m. tomorrow night.”

MTA chairman Jay Walder said that as far as he knows this is the first time transit officials have planned to shut down the entire transportation system because of the weather.

He said it will take at least 8 hours to shut down the mass transit system and move equipment to less-flood-prone areas.

“Given the severity of the storm, it may take some time to get the system back,” Walder said.

He said trains, including the Metro North and the Long Island Railroad lines, could come to a screeching halt by Saturday afternoon if Hurricane Irene does not change it’s course.

“We hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” Bloomberg said, noting the city has already experienced Mother Nature’s fury once this week with Monday’s earthquake.

Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency Thursday, “activating all levels of state government to prepare for any situation that may be caused by Hurricane Irene.”

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey also declared states of emergency.

Irene is expected to first smack into the U.S. in North Carolina on Shabbos.

The National Weather Service’s latest forecast had the slow-moving but massive storm hitting the city Sunday afternoon, coming ashore as a Category 1 somewhere around the Queens and Nassau County border.

Meteorologist Joe Pollina of the National Weather Service told the Daily News Irene will be packing winds of 90 mph and could dump over foot of rain on the region.

But forecasts vary.

National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read told the Associated Press Thursday that the hurricane could be a Category 2 storm when it reaches New York and that the worst of the it would likely arrive in Gotham on Monday.

A Category 2 hurricane is below the threshold for a major storm, but still churns up dangerous winds between 96 and 110 miles-per-hour.

Even if the city doesn’t take it on the teeth, heavy rains and winds will still wreak havoc.

“Being a large hurricane, tropical storm-force winds will extend far inland,” Read told The Associated Press.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano also issued a statement Thursday afternoon, urging residents of communities on barrier islands to prepare for a possible evacuation. The ocean-front neighborhoods included Atlantic Beach, East Atlantic Beach, Lido Beach, Long Beach and Point Lookout.

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Irene was churning about 105 miles northeast of Nassau in the Bahamas, causing all manner of damage with winds of 115 mph.

It knocked out power on Bahamian islands, ripped trees out of the ground, and blocked roads with debris. Homes near sea level on Acklins Island were washed away, local media outlets reported.

On Coney Island Thursday, many tough-minded New Yorkers refused to heed warnings or take any precautions.

“We’ll come out here anyway – we’re New Yorkers,” crowed Nelson Rolon, 50, of the Bronx, who brought his girlfriend, Tanya Rios, 30, and their daughter, Suehaley, 9, to the beach.

“We’re like the mailman – no matter what, we’re out here.”

Elsewhere along the East Coast, residents were stocking up on supplies and boarding up windows. Tourists were clearing out of coastal islands in the Carolinas.

Meteorologists said the path the storm will eventually take is very hard to anticipate correctly, but even if the bulk of the storm misses the city it could still down trees and cause power outages and structural damage to buildings.

Glass windows could shatter along the sides of New York City skyscrapers, according to

To prepare for the imminent storm, officials recommended that people pack bags with essential supplies and move valuables to upper floors of their homes.

The NYPD is deploying 33 police boats and readying another 50 small boats for use in various waterfront precincts.

The Office of Emergency Management’s command center is up and running, and hospitals are checking that emergency generators are functioning properly.

One of the biggest threats to public safety could be falling trees and branches, an issue the Parks Department and the Department of Sanitation were addressing Thursday, officials said.

Bloomberg urged New Yorkers not to swim in rough surf, and said outreach to the homeless and elderly communities was being stepped up.

{NY Daily News/ Newscenter}