With Hurricane Irene barreling towards New York, the MTA said it may close the city’s entire mass transit system, officials said this afternoon.
The decision to stop buses, the subway and trains would be made if high winds and torrential rain became too dangerous to continue service, jittery transit officials said.
“Because of the severity of the wind and rain associated with a hurricane, there may be partial or full shut down of our services to ensure the safety of our customers and employees,” the MTA said in a statement.
“We are also prepared to implement evacuation plans if the Mayor and Governor decide that is necessary.”
Mayor Bloomberg said he expected the city would shut down its entire transit system at some point Saturday afternoon, with buses subways and trains unlikely to be available again until sometime Monday and perhaps later, depending on the extent of damage.
The system can’t be safely operated with sustained winds of 39 mph or more, said Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder. Trains and buses must cease normal operations at least eight hours before those winds arrive, in order to move all MTA equipment from low-lying storage areas and secure trains in protected areas, including in the system’s underground tunnels, he said.
To prep for the storm — which could hit this weekend — the MTA is bringing in extra workers, clearing drains and establishing plans to move equipment and supplies away from low-lying areas.
Irene was expected to have a crippling impact on travel throughout the US East Coast this weekend, with Amtrak announcing it had canceled all of its trains operating south of Washington, D.C., on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
If the storm strikes New York, it will probably be a Category 1 or 2, depending on its exact track, hurricane specialist John Cangialosi said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked all visitors to the shore to get out by midday Friday. He said Irene was poised to be a “serious, significant event,” with flooding a threat across the entire state. A mandatory evacuation was ordered for Cape May County.
New York is especially susceptible with its large subway network and the waterways around the city, Mayfield said.
“In many ways, a Category 2 or stronger storm hitting New York is a lot of people’s nightmare,” said Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.
High water in the harbor and rivers, along with a high tide at the end of the month because of the new moon, could cause serious flooding. New York’s three airports are close to the water, putting them at risk, too, Cutter said.
And if the storm shifts further to the west, placing New York City on the stronger right-hand quadrant of the storm, “that is what’s going to push this wall of water into the bays and the Hudson River.”
At the same time, Gov, Cuomo today declared a state of emergency in New York in preparation for the potential impact this weekend. A state of emergency allows New York to use state resources to assist local governments more effectively and quickly.
“In this emergency I am activating all levels of state government to prepare for any situation that may be caused by Hurricane Irene,” Cuomo said. “We are communicating with our federal and local partners to track the storm and to plan a coordinated response, and we will deploy resources as needed to the areas expected to be hit the hardest.”
Hurricane Irene will likely wallop the city and Long Island with winds of up to 50 mph and 4 to 8 inches of rain this weekend.
Irene’s strong winds and heavy rains threaten to deliver long-lasting power outages to millions of customers along the East Coast, utility officials and weather forecasters say.
High winds are the biggest threat to utility wires and poles. Recent heavy rains in the region have made trees even more vulnerable to toppling over. Flooding can cause problems for power plants, which are often located near rivers or other bodies of water.
The path and strength of the storm is still uncertain. However, utilities are preparing for the possibility that outages will be widespread and lengthy.
“It’s going to be really tough,” says Karen Johnson, a spokesperson for PSE&G, which serves 2.2 million customers in New Jersey. She recommends customers stock up on supplies of food and water before the storm hits.
“You could conceivably have millions of people without power,” said Matt Rogers, President of Commodity Weather Group, which forecasts weather effects on businesses.
Weather watchers nudged Irene’s track a bit farther east yesterday afternoon, predicting that Irene’s eye — the center of the storm — will pass over Montauk, bringing winds between 90 and 110 mph.
Suffolk County officials announced a voluntary evacuation of beach towns on western Fire Island on Thursday. They say that could become mandatory on Friday. Officials are asking ferry companies not to bring anyone to the island who doesn’t own a home there.
Campers at county parks are being asked to take a hike.
In Nassau County, residents on the Barrier Island on the south shore were told to prepare for evacuations unless the storm changes its track.
Emergency shelters are being set up around the island and residents are urged to pack kits with emergency supplies.
The Long Island Rail Road is reducing service in advance of the hurricane and officials say a total shutdown is possible.
Heavy rainfall is expected to start after midnight Saturday night and last until Sunday evening.
Accuweather.com reported that Irene could be a “once-in-50-year” hurricane for the Northeast, where Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday his city was taking the storm very seriously.
Bloomberg said people living in the city’s so-called “Zone-A” might need to evacuate ahead of the storm.
That zone includes neighborhoods along the coast, including Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, Coney Island in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway in Queens. The Office of Emergency Management said residents in that zone face “the highest risk” of flooding from a hurricane’s storm surge.
“See if that long-lost cousin will put you up overnight,” said Bloomberg.
For those who do not have relatives who are so accommodating, Bloomberg said the city will have set up shelters for the 270,000 people who may be affected.
“The areas [affected by the storm] are, in the context of the city, relatively small,” he said.
Bloomberg said the evacuation is voluntary, and only if the storm worsens would he issue an executive order forcing people to flee. The city will make that decision by 8 a.m. Saturday.
Bloomberg did order the five hospitals in the low-lying areas of the city known as “Zone-A” to complete mandatory evacuations by Friday at 8 p.m., along with homes for the aged and nursing homes. He urged homebound residents in the zone to use the city’s dial-a-ride system for the disabled to evacuate on Friday as well.
When asked of those people who insisted to stay were the storm to worsen, Bloomberg said, “They could die!”
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said the police will be prepared in the event of an evacuation.
“We will also assist if there is any evacuation, make sure that the routes are kept open to and to escort them if needed,” he said. “We will pre-position emergency services units and highway units at areas that historically and traditionally clog up, flood and back up of certain areas of the FDR Drive for instance that will perennially flood. We’ll help the best we can to expedite evacuation.”
Also today, NJ Gov. Chris Christie also signed a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Irene. The declaration cleared the way for the state to deploy resources — such as the National Guard — to counties and municipalities as they prepare for the storm.
“Do not try to ride it out. It is not the smart thing to do,” Christie said during a news conference.
He urged citizens not to travel to the popular Jersey Shore and said he was considering issuing a mandatory evacuation of the southern portion of the New Jersey coastline.
“I’m urging folks to voluntarily leave either tonight or tomorrow during the day,” Christie said.
Officials in Cape May County, N.J., ordered a mandatory evacuation starting Friday at 8 am that will require as many as 750,000 people to leave the area, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today.
The last hurricane to slam the New York-area was in 1985 when Hurricane Gloria struck. During that storm, New York City only got three inches of rain, although many people were left without power.
Hurricanes are rare in the Northeast because the region’s cooler seas tend to weaken storms as they approach, and they have to take a narrow track to strike New York without first hitting other parts of the coast and weakening there.
Still, strong storms have been known to unleash serious damage in an urban environment already surrounded by water.
A September 1821 hurricane raised tides by 13 feet in an hour and flooded all of Manhattan south of Canal Street — an area that now includes the nation’s financial capital. An infamous 1938 storm dubbed the Long Island Express came ashore about 75 miles east of the city and then hit New England, killing 700 people and leaving 63,000 homeless.
“The city has already seen the power of Mother Nature once this week, and Mother Nature may not be done with us yet,” Bloomberg said of Hurricane Irene.
Irene could hit North Carolina’s Outer Banks by Saturday morning. The storm is then predicted to chug up the East Coast, dumping rain from Virginia to New York City before a much-weakened form reaches land in Connecticut. Finally, it should peter out in Maine by Monday afternoon.
A hurricane watch was put in place on Thursday for the North Carolina coast — covering the coastline north of Surf City to the state’s border with Virginia — as Irene bore down on the US.
Approximately 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate from the Atlantic coast of North Carolina, with tourists barred from most of the beach towns of the Outer Banks ahead of the storm’s anticipated Saturday arrival, The Raleigh News & Observer reported.
The former chief of the National Hurricane Center called Irene’s projected path one of his three worst possible situations.
“One of my greatest nightmares was having a major hurricane go up the whole Northeast coast,” Max Mayfield, the center’s retired director, told The Associated Press.
He said the damage will probably climb into billions of dollars: “This is going to have an impact on the United States economy.”
The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said damages could exceed most previous storms because so many people live along the East Coast and property values are high.
“We’ve got a lot more people that are potentially in the path of this storm,” FEMA Director Craig Fugate said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is one of the largest populations that will be impacted by one storm at one time.”
The storm would “have a lot of impact well away from the coastline,” he added. “A little bit of damage over big areas with large populations can add up fast.”
Irene would be the first hurricane to reach landfall in the US since Hurricane Ike pounded the Gulf Coast in 2008. The Category 3 storm with winds of 115 mph — the threshold for a major hurricane — would be the strongest to strike the East Coast in seven years.
As of 8:00 p.m. Thursday night, Irene was still barrelling towards the US, packing 115mph winds as it demolished homes and tore down power lines. Early Friday, the storm was once again in warm Atlantic waters that could energize it.
Weather-wise New Yorkers weren’t taking any chances that Irene will blow out to sea.
“If you were a gambler, I think you could give odds that it’s going to be windy and rainy here, at least. It’s a big storm, even if it’s off shore,” said Charlie Hurd, of the City Island Yacht Club in The Bronx.
Club members got an e-mail yesterday asking them to check their moorings and reduce their boats’ “windage” — that is, anything that might be blown around by strong gusts.
“Sustained winds of this strength will find any weakness — count on it,” the e-mail said.
City officials say they’re preparing for the worst, and are ready to evacuate as many as 75,000 people from areas prone to storm surges — massive ocean upswells, 5 to 7 feet high, that can flood low-lying land.
“Surge is perhaps the most damaging and most dangerous thing that can happen in a city that has low-lying areas,” said Joseph Bruno, commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management.
“The sense is that we’re going to be facing a strong tropical storm in New York City, which would bring winds from 40 to 50 to 60 miles per hour and could bring rain from 6 to 12 inches,” he said.
In Springfield Gardens, Queens, rain almost always brings flooding — and the advancing hurricane set residents scrambling to be ready.
“I’m stocked up on food and canned goods,” said Allen Ortiz. He has built a cinderblock wall several inches high to keep his driveway from flooding, and set up two pumps to clear water out of his basement.
And storm-savvy New Yorkers were also stocking up yesterday at the Home Depot in Ozone Park. Clifford Singh, who lives nearby, bought several flashlights. Singh is originally from the British Virgin Islands, where they know hurricanes. “I’ve bought water, groceries, everything,” he said. “I always stock up.”
The Bahamas government has discontinued the hurricane warning for the southeastern Bahamas. The warnings remain in place for the central and northeastern Bahamas.
US Navy officials confirmed to Fox News Channel that vessels from the 2nd fleet based along the Virginia coastline were ordered out to sea Wednesday night in preparation for Irene’s expected landfall.
The Miami-based NHC issued its watch for the North Carolina coast covering an area from north of Surf City to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the areas around Pamlico, Albemarle and Currituck Sounds.
A tropical storm watch was also issued from north of Edisto Beach in South Carolina to Surf City in North Carolina.
The Category 3 hurricane was located about 65 miles east-north-east of Nassau in the Bahamas. The hurricane is expected to strengthen Thursday and into Friday.
Life-threatening surf conditions and heavy swells are expected to strike the southeastern coast of the US later Thursday.
While some people prepare, others are holding off hurricane-related decision-making.
Organizers of the Dave Matthews Band concerts on Governors Island this weekend hadn’t decided yesterday whether to postpone or cancel.
Officials of the Barclays golf tournament in Plainfield, NJ, expect it’ll be rained out this weekend, but as of yesterday they hadn’t officially decided to call off play.
The latest satellite image shows Hurricane Irene as it travels off the coast of Florida Thursday. (UPI)
Source : https://nypost.com/2011/08/25/mta-says-it-may-close-city-subway-system-if-hurricane-irene-packs-too-big-a-punch/