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New York City Battens Down The Hatches As Irene Begins Her Run Up Coast

Latest: 75-90 MPH Winds, 7-10 Inches Of Rain Possible In Big Apple
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a City Hall press conference on Hurricane Irene on Aug. 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Updated at 12:33 a.m., Aug. 26, 2011

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Hurricane Irene is packing a powerful punch and Mayor Michael Bloomberg says to “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

As the East Coast hunkers down, the Category 3 storm battered and bruised the Bahamas with heavy winds and rain. Widespread damage has been reported.  Also Thursday night in Florida, authorities said the rough ocean churned up by Irene’s outer bands left eight people injured in Palm Beach County.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York to assist local governments “more effectively and quickly.”

More: Track Irene’s Path | Hurricane Resources | Evac Zone Finder

WHAT CAN NEW YORK CITY EXPECT?

CBS 2’s Lonnie Quinn said the strongest rain and heaviest winds are expected to hit the area from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.  Quinn expects the storm to be downgraded to Category 1 when it reaches New York City.

Irene is expected to bring winds of 75-90 mph and about 7 to 10 inches of rain to the city.  Further north, the winds are expected to be between 55 and 75 mph, bringing about 4 to 7 inches of rain.

WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE CAN YOU EXPECT?

Residents can expect to face the possibility of downed trees, power outages, broken windows and roof damage.

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene (credit: AP/NOAA)

Urban Planner and architect Lance Jay Brown said contrary to what you might think, a scaffold or sidewalk built to code should hold.

Brown said air-conditioning units would stick in place, but the greatest dangers would come from broken glass.

Windows most likely to shatter would be from 10th floors and above. Flying awnings and signs and things residents leave loose on rooftops and terrace furniture could also pose significant dangers, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported.

BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES NYC STORM PREP

Speaking at a news conference early Thursday evening, Bloomberg said that the latest models appear to show New York City will be impacted in the “early hours of Sunday morning,” and that it would be a “Category 1 storm” when it hits the city.  He added that despite those predictions, the storm was still a “long time away in meteorological terms.” In fact, as of 11 p.m. Irene was approximately 900 miles away from the Big Apple.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports: Bloomberg Braces For The Worst

Having been bamboozled by the Christmas blizzard, the mayor wants to make sure he isn’t inundated by Irene, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

MAYOR ADDRESSES EVACUATION PLANS

The mayor also said that senior citizen homes, nursing homes and hospitals in low-lying areas “must evacuate” by 8 p.m. Friday unless they are able to show that their location or provisions for back-up power would allow them to stay safe.

If those facilities choose not to evacuate, Bloomberg said they would need to coordinate their decisions in conjunction with city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

Coney Island Hospital already started moving patients to vacant beds at medical centers on higher ground Thursday night.

NYU Hospitals Center, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Staten Island University South and Staten Island University North are the other hospitals located in “Zone A,” according to the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

Bloomberg also said the city’s emergency response teams are ready, but advised people living in low-lying areas that may face evacuation to take some additional steps.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb With Mayor Bloomberg: He’s Prepared To Order Evacuations

“Now is a very good time to check in with your friends and family in other parts of the city and identify other places you might stay,” Bloomberg said. “Start moving your stuff upstairs, start taking precautions now, if it gets to that.”

Bloomberg said it wasn’t yet clear whether the city would ask — or demand — residents to evacuate.

“The worst case if they didn’t leave and we ordered them — they could die,” Bloomberg said. “The only reason you issue something like that is because you think people’s lives are in jeopardy.”

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell: Evacuation Plans In The Rockaways

Bloomberg urged area residents to avoid swimming when the beaches are closed, calling it the “most dangerous thing” New Yorkers could do.

CITY TAKING NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS

The NYPD is readying its fleet of 50 14-foot-long rescue boats just in case things get really bad.

“We call them John Boats,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Thursday. “They’re in the process of being distributed now to basically precinct commands in the low-lying areas.”

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond With NYC’s Top Cop

Those areas include neighborhoods in the city’s Zone A, which include Coney Island and Far Rockaway, parts of Staten Island and Battery Park City. Businesses along the Coney Island boardwalk already began mobilizing Thursday, protecting their locations with sandbags and raising their inventory to higher ground.

Highway units will be stationed on flood-prone routes, such as the FDR Drive, prior to the storm’s arrival.

Click here to learn more about how you should prepare for the storm.

Bloomberg has also revoked all permits for outdoor events on Sunday.  Saturday permits for Zone A neighborhoods, which include Battery Park City, Coney Island and Far Rockaway, must end by 2 p.m.

1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports: Coney Island Gets Ready For Irene

Are you concerned about Hurricane Irene? Sound off in our comments section.

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