NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While officials in the Tri-State Area are stressing that it is still too early to know what course Hurricane Irene will take, they are preparing for the potential consequences the storm could bring.
Irene has strengthened to a Category 3 storm over the Bahamas and has the East Coast of the United States in sight. If she remains that strong when making landfall, it will be the first storm of that strength to strike the East Coast in more than 10 years.
Wednesday night, officials in a coastal county in North Carolina issued an order for tourists to evacuate Thursday morning.
Depending on the storm’s track, AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Bowers said Irene could ”cause hurricane-force winds on Eastern Long Island and tropical storm conditions in [New York] City.” In fact, CBS 2′s Lonnie Quinn says Irene could hit Montauk as a hurricane sometime Sunday afternoon, packing 100 m.p.h. winds.
PREPARATIONS BEING MADE IN NYC
Emergency management officials in New York City met residents Wednesday to discuss evacuation plans if Hurricane Irene strikes. The Office of Emergency Management said it has been consulting with the National Weather Service. Commissioner Joseph Bruno said officials are predicting a strong tropical storm with 40 to 60 mph winds that could hit New York City around midday Saturday ahead of Irene’s center.
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In a worst-case scenario, the city could face a Category 1 storm with more than 72 mph winds and a dangerous storm surge affecting low-lying areas.
Andrew Feeney, director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management, said city, state and federal agencies are planning their coordinated response efforts as they keep their eyes on the storm’s movement.
“We’re actually engaged in a much more detailed level of planning to address issues that may arise, such as transportation issues, issues in relation to human services, such as sheltering,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Monica Miller.
Officials are also keeping a close eye on Irene because the US Open tennis tournament kicks off next week in Queens.
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About 60,000 tennis fans are expected at Flushing Meadows and Director of Facilities Dan Zausner said a hurricane plan is in place and banners, video screens and other temporary structures could be removed.
Tournament spokesman Chris Widmaier said he’s relieved the earthquake didn’t crack any of the courts.
“The only shocks we want to see are upsets early in the tournament,” Widmaier said.
TOWNS ALONG JERSEY SHORE WORRIED
If the storm heads our way, the Jersey Shore will be dealing with it first. Residents are preparing for lots of rain and flooding.
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The Town of Sea Bright, nestled between the Shrewsbury River and the Atlantic Ocean, is worried about flooding. Residents on Beach Street aren’t taking any chances. They said conditions even last Sunday were pretty bad.
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“I just seen that the water was getting high, it was up to my ankles. And I just said ‘let me get out of this town,’” Stacey Patridge told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
Monmouth County emergency management officials are preparing for the worst. They are concerned about communities along the ocean as well as the rivers and high winds.
“Make sure that you have somewhere to go in case you do have to evacuate — whether it’s a family member, friend’s house, somewhere inland,” Sheriff Shaun Golden said.
Officials advised that individuals should have a three-day supply of food for the weekend in addition to bottled water, a flashlight, manual can opener, battery-operated radio and a first-aid kit.
“Start preparing now, create a plan, get your survival kit and your go-kit ready to go in case there is an evacuation order,” State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said. “If you know your basement is prone to flooding move stuff out of it now. If you don’t have your supplies at home go buy them today.”
New Jersey hasn’t had a direct hurricane hit since 1903 when one made landfall in Atlantic City.
NASSAU COUNTY PREPARED FOR EVACUATIONS
The storm could directly hit Long Island, where emergency responders are armed with plans to help residents evacuate if necessary.
The Nassau County Office of Emergency Management is preparing for Irene’s possible impact. The county has installed an emergency notification system to quickly call the home phones of residents in an effected area. The system can make 3,000 calls a minute and that is just part of the overall plan.
“There’s many other things we do to get ready and be prepared as well as asking our residents to be prepared, to shelter in place or be prepared to leave their home,” County Executive Ed Mangano told CBS 2′s Mark Morgan.
Nassau County residents are urged to go to the county’s website for hurricane preparedness information, including a map of the four evacuation zones and routes.
Approximately 400,000 people live in the zones and the evacuation routes will help move residents away from vulnerable areas.
“All of our evacuation routes bring people to our shelters and those shelters that we open up are determined by the path of the storm and where it’s hitting,” Mangano said, adding police and volunteers will help assist with the process.
The evacuation plan was conceived in 2005 and is updated periodically, including three months ago. Morgan asked a few residents if they believed it was sufficient.
“I think it’s a good plan if you have small children, but how bad could it really be? Hopefully it’s not a destroyer, hopefully we’ll be alright,” said Matt Rosner of Merrick.
“The traffic is going to be a mess. It’s a mess without the evacuation, so if everybody takes it nice and easy, slow, have some kind of preparation with a goal it should be okay,” added Hal Freedman of Bellmore.
BEACH EROSION POSSIBLE IN SUFFOLK COUNTY
In Suffolk County, it was quite literally the calm before the possible storm on Wednesday. Giant sand bags were being put in place to protect buildings in Quogue Village Beach.
“With a hurricane coming, we’ve seen this beach go…to like 15-20 yards of beach overnight,” beach manager Ryan Fay told CBS 2′s Katie Fehlinger.
Hurricane Irene has homeowners in the area on standby.
“I mean they’re calling for a lot of rain and anytime there’s a lot of rain, we always lose some of the beach,” Quogue resident Susan Lazar said.
Kenneth Olsen has watched as weather drastically changed his sandy front yard over the years and now he is keeping close watch on Irene.
“I’m worried about it, but I’m going to wait until Saturday before we start taking everything down again — the furniture, the umbrellas,” Olsen said.
Beach-side properties in Quogue are no strangers to powerful storms. They bore the brunt of brutal wind and rain as several nor’easters slammed into Long Island in recent winters.
Deputy Commissioner John Searing of Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services said erosion tends to happen in cycles on Long Island. His office works very closely with the National Weather Service in major weather events to take proper action if necessary.
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