NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued an unprecedented mandatory evacuation order on Friday for parts of the city as Hurricane Irene barrels down on the Big Apple.
“The sun is shining, but don’t be misled, there is a very dangerous storm headed in our direction,” Bloomberg said. “There is no question that we are going to get hit with some wind and high water that is very dangerous. It is, in some sense, the calm before the storm.”
COASTAL AREA EVACUATIONS
Bloomberg also announced a mandatory evacuation of all residents in the coastal areas dubbed “Zone A” and also extended the mandatory evacuation zone to include all of the Rockaways. Zone A includes Battery Park City and parts of Lower Manhattan, the Rockaways and Coney Island.
“It’s done for people’s safety and I think the vast majority of people will recognize just how serious this is and follow the order and evacuate,” Bloomberg said.
Nearly 270,000 New Yorkers live in the low-lying areas most susceptible to flooding and wind damage. The mayor decided to get them out of their homes before buses, subways and commuter trains shut down at noon Saturday. Bridges may close as well, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, if sustained winds clock in at 60 mph or greater.
“If you live in Zone A, you have to move,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said the city is calling for everyone in the affected areas out by 5 p.m. Saturday. To see if your home is in part of the evacuation zone, click here.
“We have never done a mandatory evacuation. Wouldn’t be doing this now if we didn’t think the storm had the potential to be very serious,” he said. “Some people will say you overreact, some people if there’s a tragedy will say you didn’t have enough protection, didn’t take enough time. You try to find something that’s balanced.”
“We will have the police going down the streets. They have loud speakers in their cars. When they see somebody out in the street, they will try to stop and say ‘hey, come on, your life is in danger.'”
It will take at least eight hours to shut all the subways and buses down. For more details about the mass transit shutdown and what it means, click here.
“I don’t think that there’s any question that after the storm the situation is going to be very difficult,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Jay Walder said.
Battery Park City resident Susan Bridges lived through one disaster and said she doesn’t want to go through another.
“I was here during 9/11 and the aftermath of that was a little bit crazy,” she said while packing up her car to head upstate to stay with friends. “If things are very bad, this place will be completely and totally unlivable and people will be dead.”
Bruce Katz and his fiance decided to drive away Friday night, and told CBS 2’s Mark Morgan that their departure brought back memories of 9/11.
“We’ve done this before. Ten years ago we had to pack up and leave and it’s somewhat angst-provoking that we’re doing it again ten tears later,” Katz said.
For Chloe Lambros of Battery Park City, the impending storm evoked safety concerns.
“I’m a little nervous with windows being busted and things like that, but to an extent, I have to see how it turns out. I’m playing it by ear,” she said.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell In Lower Manhattan
“Stay indoors,” Bloomberg urged. “It’s just very dangerous when the wind gets this high.
“If you can possibly do it, stay inside on Sunday. It would be great if we can wake up on Monday and say there were no tragedies.”
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports: Mayor Orders Evacuation
Bloomberg said he will be in the city this weekend.
If winds top 46 mph, Staten Island ferry service may be shut down. Also shut down: Mets games Saturday and Sunday. The Jets-Giants preseason game at MetLife Stadium, originally scheduled Saturday at 8 p.m. but then pushed back to 2 p.m., was postponed until Monday mostly because fans would not have had MTA trains to rely upon when trying to get home.
The city is also eliminating alternate side of the street parking rules Saturday, Sunday and Monday, suspending parking meter payments, and suspending 300 street fair permits.
All this comes as the city continues to gear up for the meanest storm it has seen since 1985. That’s when Hurricane Gloria blew into town, a Category 2 storm. Hurricane Irene seems to be weakening a bit, but it is still Category 2, and could still easily gather strength before it hits town Sunday.
The eye of Irene is expected to pass over Suffolk County, Long Island. New York City is still expected to get significantly walloped.
HOSPITAL AND NURSING HOME EVACUATIONS
Five hospitals declared by the city to be at risk because of Hurricane Irene have been evacuating patients to facilities on higher ground. These include Coney Island Hospital, NYU Medical Center, the V. A. Medical Center in Manhattan, and Staten Island University Hospital, both North and South.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond At Coney Island Hospital
“It’s kind of quiet, eerie, just employees walking around. Patients are calling, asking to come into clinics. I’m like, ‘We’re closed!,” Jennifer Ernie, who works in the accounting department, said.
Patient Lovette Lewis was sent home with seizure medication and her doctor’s cell phone number.
“It’s a little scary. It’s a little scary, you know. Cause I do live in the coney island area and it’s a lot you know. It’s scary,” she said.
Eight nursing homes and nine other facilities were also part of the evacuation order, including the Shore View Nursing Home in Coney Island.
Nursing Home resident Theresa Preziotti admits the whole experience has her a bit nervous.
“Yes, I am. Because I have a lot of friends here. I want to come back here. I want the building to be here when I get back,” she told CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports: Winding Down Operations At Coney Island Hospital
Bloomberg ordered some of those hospitals, nursing homes and senior centers to be evacuated by 8 p.m. Friday.
SECURING CONSTRUCTION SITES
The city is a jumble of scaffolding and construction sites, but experts say as long as it’s correctly installed, scaffolding and sidewalk sheds should survive the storm.
Urban planner and architect Lance Jay Brown said the scaffolding that adorns New York City sidewalks should be quite secure, if it has been built up to code specifications. Air-conditioners should also hold in place.
“These tend to get tied to the buildings they are servicing. Very positively tied, so they don’t move inward, and in well-connected, well-engineered ones, tied so they don’t pull away,” Lance Jay Brown, ACSA Professor of Architecture, told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
Construction sites around the city are preparing for the intense wind and rain. New York City Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri has inspectors checking construction sites throughout the city.
That’s good news for Abe Shrem, as his Landmark Gallery, with expensive items behind the glass window, is surrounded by construction sites. “Hopefully we won’t have anything hitting our windows” he said.
Asked how worried he is, Shrem answered “50-50.”
The World Trade Center construction site in lower Manhattan is among those making preparations for Irene. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it is securing all cranes and construction gear at the site.
“With the hurricane and the winds, you don’t want to take any chances,” one construction worker said.
Another concern they are working on is debris and small objects at buildings on 1 World Trade Center.
The concern over debris and loose material being blown about doesn’t end there.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb In Another One Of NYC’s Flood-Prone Areas
Windows above the 10th floor are at greatest risk of shattering. Terrace furniture and other loose things on rooftops could be dangerous.
“I really am nervous. I am getting scared and hopefully everyone will do the right thing to prepare for this,” said Angie Giunta of Carroll Gardens.
Property owners should make sure garbage cans, planters, and anything the wind can pick up and turn into a missile should be secured.
“It becomes yeah, I would say a missile. It can be target at anything, anyone walking by, or cars,” Giunta said.
“Stay away from windows,” Bloomberg urged, adding that there’s always a chance they can be blown in or smashed by debris flying around.
EMERGENCY SHELTERS FOR EVACUEES
For those with nowhere to go, the city has shelters across Manhattan, located at:
- Seward Park High School at 350 Grand Street
- Baruch College, East 23rd & Lexington
- High School of Graphic Communication Arts, 49th between 9th & 10th
- John Jay College, 59th & 10th
- Hunter College, Park Avenue & 68th Street
- Brandeis High School, 84th between Amsterdam and Columbus
- IS 118, 105th Street & Manhattan Avenue
- PS 171, 103rd between Fifth & Madison
- IS 88, Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. & Frederick Douglass Blvd.
- Bread and Roses High School, Edgecombe Avenue & 136th Street
- City College, Amsterdam Ave. & 138th Street
- IS 90, Jumel Place and 168th Street
- George Washington High School, 193rd Street between Amsterdam and Audobon Avenues
Volunteers at the city’s shelters were putting finishing touches Friday night on the accommodations.
“There’s going to be people that are afraid. There’s going to be people that are upset. We’ll be dealing with that,” volunteer Harriet Melnick told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
Irene actually weakened a bit overnight, dropping to a Category 2 storm. That means it is packing winds of up to 110 mph. It is still barreling toward North Carolina. It is possible that it will gather strength again.
By the time Irene hits New York, it is expected to bring at least Tropical Storm-force winds of at least 75-90 mph and up to 7-10 inches of rain.
“What we have here is a storm with projected winds that would exceed the level at which the MTA can safely operate services,” Walder said.
Despite all the concern about the storm, the Great White Way seems to be saying “The show must go on.” So far, there have been no cancellations as yet of shows set for this weekend, according to the Broadway League and Off-Broadway League. The two are trade associations. The weekend is the busiest time for Broadway shows.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell With Boat Owners On Manhattan’s Southern Tip
Boat owners and captains were literally battening down their hatches and securing their vessels at the North Cove Marina in Lower Manhattan.
“I’m concerned about hitting other things, other boats, the dock, and boats can get damaged pretty easily,” said Zach Fluhr, who was trying to secure Ajax, his 34-foot-long sailboat.
Fluhr says he’ll do the best that he can and then he’ll just cross his fingers.
For specific recommendations on what you can do to prepare for Hurricane Irene, click here.
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