NYC issues first ever mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Irene

Posted Aug 27, 2011 by Kim I. Hartman
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered the mandatory evacuation of almost 300,000 residents as the city prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, which is expected to impact the city beginning Saturday evening.
NYC George Washington Bridge
NYC George Washington Bridge linking New York City and New Jersey.
Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record
The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for the city of New York and much of the eastern seaboard as residents of North Carolina prepare for Irene to make landfall by 7 am Saturday in Atlantic Beach.
Hurricane Irene is expected to hit North Carolina with 100 mph winds before cutting a wide swath north, dumping torrential rains over the entire east coast as she heads to New York City on her way to the Maritimes.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Thursday in advance of the arrival of Irene. Obama responded by granting Cuomo's request for an emergency declaration, which frees up federal monies needed for hurricane preparations.
“I thank the President for his quick response. We are working hard at all levels of government to prepare for this storm and we appreciate the federal government’s support,” said Cuomo.
In NYC those preparations include the city's first mandatory evacuation in history, which is expected to be completed by 5pm on Saturday. Evacuation zones [pdf] include Staten Island, Manhattan's Battery Park, Coney Island, Long Island and Far Rockaway. Ninty-one shelters have been opened throughout the city, reports Reuters.
Bloomberg said of the mandatory evacuation, "This is very serious. If you don't follow this order, people might die."
Hurricane Irene- Aug. 26  2011.
Hurricane Irene- Aug. 26, 2011.
The National Weather Service predicts Irene will hit the city on Sunday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane. A complete shutdown has been ordered for all of public transportation in the city, including subway trains, commuter trains and buses starting at noon on Saturday.
Gov. Cuomo has suspended some fares and tolls to facilitate evacuations in the city. "The only approach to a storm of this magnitude is to act preemptively. Waiving fares may be the factor that convinces some people to leave promptly when they might otherwise be tempted to stay and confront this hurricane," said Cuomo.
The governor's statement said bridges would be closed if winds exceed 60 mph.
Airports in New York have reported they will close to incoming traffic at noon on Saturday and remain closed until Hurricane Irene passes through the city. Shuttles are standing by to take stranded passengers to hotels.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The city has completed the evacuation of dozens of hospitals and nursing homes located in low-lying areas in anticipation of flooding from the 10 plus inches of rain expected from Irene.
Mayor Bloomberg said all New York City residents should avoid being outside during the hurricane and from 9 p.m. Saturday through 9 p.m. on Sunday.
At the World Trade Center construction was stopped so workers could secure scaffolding and materials that could creating hazards if they became projectiles carried by the hurricane strength winds. The Weather Channel reports there are "26 cranes in operation throughout the city, 13 at the World Trade Center, that can not be disassembled quickly." The cranes, which are 'built to withstand winds of 65 mph' could create a danger during the storm.
The governor has activated 900 National Guard members who are prepared to assist the city if needed. Hurricane Irene could cause billions in insured losses and economic damage, according to Bloomberg.
Mayor Bloomberg said, "We've never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn't be doing it now if we didn't think this storm had the potential to be very serious."
Mayor Bloomberg's press conference can be viewed below.