With Hurricane Irene likely heading for the New York area, government officials are stepping up efforts to alert and prepare residents.

Hurricane Irene is currently a high-end Category 2 storm, but it is expected to re-strengthen into a Category 3 storm.  On Long Island, towns and villages, especially on the south shore, could be greatly affected by the storm due to its proximity to the water.  

To alert residents, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano personally recorded a message to all residents to take advantage of friends and family sheltering plan, and contact people who live in southern parts of the county. The Red Cross has also designated three shelters in the county for those who have no other options available.

In the coming day, if conditions do not improve, a mandatory evacuation may be placed for certain parts of Nassau County. Mangano has said that an order could be placed as early as Friday evening.

Local governments are also stepping in to help prepare for Irene. Brian Devine, a spokesman for the town of Oyster Bay, said right now, they are currently maintaining close contact with Nassau County's Emergency Management Team, as they will make the decisions regarding evacuations.

We are kind of following their lead, he said.

Still, for voluntary evacuations, buses have been placed on standby to help people evacuate that may not have the means to commute, such as the ill and elderly. Furthermore, the town has been in constant communication with residents, posting up-to-the-minute information about Hurricane preparation. Many Oyster Bay residents have also signed up to receive e-mails from Supervisor John Venditto regarding Irene.

In Long Beach, City Manager Charles Theofan has urged for residents to prepare for voluntary evacuation. While the cities beaches remain open, they were closed to swimmers Friday out of concerns of heavy riptides. By the weekend, beaches may be closed entirely.

While it is hard to predict where and when the hurricane will hit, or determine the storms intensity when it does hit, public officials have been trying to brace the public for the worst of circumstances. On Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office declared a State of Emergency for the state.

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, Cuomo said in a statement. I urge New Yorkers to personally prepare for the hurricane conditions and to cooperate with emergency officials if needed.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Friday afternoon ordered people Zone A low-lying areas to a evacuate by Saturday afternoon, he has urged citizens in those areas-including places such as Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens and Battery Park City in Manhattan, to voluntarily evacuate the areas on Friday. With few exceptions, his office has ordered senior care facilities to evacuate on Friday.

Bloomberg also said in a news conference yesterday that he has remained in contact with the federal government, notably Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security. He said if a disaster does hit the city, a relief effort would be a coordinated effort between federal, state and local authorities.

Friday afternoon, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has decided to shut down transportation by noon on Saturday, and will be closed until further notice, according to news sources.

The efforts by Bloomberg to have a firm plan in place come months after the city, and inevitably the mayor himself, took heavy criticism from the public about the response from the snow storm.

People are beginning to stock up for items in order to prepare for the worst. Nexar Gillis, the manager of King Kullen Supermarket in Manhasset, said his store saw increased traffic beginning on Thursday, and by Friday morning, the store was completely swamped. Gillis said he has called in off duty employees to help out, but has no plans to extend hours.