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With Hurricane Irene Near, 370,000 in New York City Get Evacuation Order
By JAMES BARRON
Published: August 26, 2011
New York officials on Saturday urged residents in evacuation areas to leave immediately as Hurricane Irene started to pummel the North Carolina coast.
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Hurricane Irene Hits, Raising Fears of Storm Surge (August 28, 2011)
This Storm, Bloomberg Responds Differently (August 27, 2011)
Stopping Trains, to Store Them Safely (August 27, 2011)
Digging In, or Just Getting Out of the Way (August 27, 2011)
City Room: Preparing for Irene: Where to Get Advice and Information (August 25, 2011)
Librado Romero/The New York Times
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made that plea outside Albany as he met with National Guard members being deployed to Long Island to help with the storm. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg issued his warning at a news conference in Coney Island.
“It is going to be a very serious thing as far as we can tell now,” the mayor said, flanked by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and other city officials. “This is going to be a very serious storm no matter what the track is.”
“Staying behind is dangerous, staying behind is foolish and it’s against the law,” he added.
Mr. Bloomberg said electricity could be turned off in some parts of Lower Manhattan and in other low-lying areas to avoid more severe damage from flooding, but he added that no decision had yet been made.
On Friday, city officials issued what they called an unprecedented order for the evacuation of about 370,000 residents of low-lying areas, warning that Hurricane Irene was such a threat that people living there simply had to get out. Officials also made what they said was another first-of-its-kind decision, announcing plans to shut down the city’s entire transit system Saturday — all 468 subway stations and 840 miles of tracks, and the rest of the nation’s largest mass transit network: thousands of buses in the city, as well as the buses and commuter trains that reach from Midtown Manhattan to the suburbs.
He added that residents should also “plan on the possibility of no power downtown.”
A Con Ed spokesman, Alfonso Quiroz, said that the pre-emptive shutdown could allow workers to restore electrical power more quickly once the storm has passed.
Mr. Bloomberg acknowledged that while the city’s shelters have room for 71,000 people, there would not be the same number of beds. “We’ll make do with what we can,” he said.
Underscoring what Mr. Bloomberg and other officials said was the seriousness of the threat, President Obama approved a request from Mr. Cuomo to declare a federal emergency in the state while the hurricane was still several hundred miles away, churning toward the Carolinas. The city was part of a hurricane warning that took in hundreds of miles of coastline, from Sandy Hook, N.J., to Sagamore Beach, Mass.
The hurricane, 290 miles of fury dancing angrily across the Atlantic Ocean toward the coast, was actually advancing more slowly than most late-summer storms, the National Weather Service said. It said that by doing a minuet instead of a faster step, the storm would prolong the pounding it delivered to coastal areas when it reached them.
A Weather Service forecast Friday night said rain associated with the storm would begin in Manhattan after 11 a.m. Saturday with conditions worsening into Sunday.
“Some weakening is expected after Irene reaches the coast of North Carolina,” a National Hurricane Center report said, “but Irene is forecast to remain a hurricane as it moves near or over the mid-Atlantic states and New England.”
City officials said the planned shutdown of New York City’s mass transit network remained on schedule Saturday morning, as passengers and transit workers alike prepared to start winding down subway, bus and commuter rail service at noon.
The Staten Island Ferry will end service around 10 p.m., or sooner depending on severe wind conditions, the city said. Fares have been waived for buses throughout the city, and tolls have been suspended on most of the major bridges east and south of Manhattan.
Pennsylvania Station in Midtown was orderly but crowded on Saturday morning, with about the same amount of people as a regular weekday. The final commuter trains to the suburbs are scheduled to leave shortly before noon, and Amtrak has canceled most of its Northeast Corridor trains for the afternoon. The airports are set to close to arriving flights at noon.
The New York City subway was running fairly smoothly on Saturday morning with reports of little crowding on the trains.