The path that Hurricane Irene, the first hurricane of the season, chose to take has caused the first-ever New York City shutdown.
America's largest subway system and about five flights in the NYC area shut down around noon on Saturday, as Irene continues to churn near the East Coast.
The storm is also forcing the evacuation of more than 250,000 residents as Irene barrels closer to the city, according to reports.
Irene has already slammed into North Carolina at Cape Lookout. It is packing harsh winds and rains.
N.Y. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has ordered the first-ever shutdown of its subway system asking that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspend tolls at the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a statement on his Web site noted.
New Yorkers adhering to the governor's warnings have left bridges and streets nearly empty. Few people are either walking or driving, and most activity can be seen on the Upper West Side.
Some businesses on Wall Street began laying sandbags around their business entrances on Friday and subway gates nearest the East River, which is expected to surge as the hurricane approaches New York.
Irene could be a Category 1 hurricane when it reaches the New York City area and could still bring some high winds and 8 to 12 inches of rain, Mayor Bloomberg said.
U.S. air carriers have canceled nearly 5,000 flights this weekend as destructive Hurricane Irene threatens several large airports in New York and Washington.
Large airlines to include U.S. Airways, American, United, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and AirTran have reportedly dropped ticket-change fees for passengers scheduled to fly to or from many cities along the East Coast this weekend and early next week.
Aviation officials have already made it known that they will close the five main New York City-area airports to incoming passenger flights beginning noon on Saturday. Many weekend departures have also been canceled.
These cancellations will affects John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, Stewart International and Teterboro airports. It applies to both domestic and international flights.
CNN has reported that:
- Delta Air Lines plans to cancel about 1,300 Delta and Delta Connection flights between Saturday and Monday, according to spokesman Anthony Black.
- American Airlines canceled all Washington-area flights from noon Saturday through noon Sunday, according to spokesman Ed Martelle. The airline also canceled 32 Friday flights.
- JetBlue has canceled almost 900 flights in the Northeast ahead of the storm. Most of those are Sunday and Monday flights out of the New York metro area and Boston, spokesman Mateo Lleras said.
- Air Tran has canceled 265 flights from Saturday to Monday, according to spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver. That includes flights into and out of the following locales: Allentown/Bethlehem, Penn.; Atlantic City, N.J.; Baltimore-Washington International, Md.; Boston; New York's LaGuardia airport; Newport News, Virginia; Philadelphia; Portland, Maine; Richmond, Virginia; Washington's Reagan airport; Washington Dulles airport in northern Virginia; and White Plains, N.Y.
- Southwest announced on its website that it would not have flights to and from several airports on the East Coast. That includes no Southwest service Saturday and Sunday from Newark, LaGuardia, Long Island-Islip and Philadelphia airports. The airline won't fly to or from the Baltimore/Washington airport; Norfolk, Virginia; or Washington-Dulles in northern Virginia on Saturday. Similarly, there will be no Southwest flights Sunday to Boston; Hartford; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Providence, Rhode Island.
- US Airways is planning significant cancellations in the Washington metro area starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, carrying into Sunday. Philadelphia, New York and New England routes will see significant schedule reductions Sunday, according to an airline spokesman.
Federal officials have warned that Irene could cause flooding, power outages, and storm surges all along the East Coast as far north as Maine - even if it stays offshore.
If you can leave today, that would be helpful, Bloomberg said. He has also made it clear that residents in Zone A need to be out by Saturday at 5 p.m.
However, Zone A residents may need to get moving by Saturday morning because the coming winds may make traveling difficult by the afternoon and New York's entire mass transit system will shut down by noon.
At the moment the strongest winds are expected to arrive in the early evening tomorrow, Bloomberg said. It is expected to be a category 1 storm. The full brunt of the storm - if you are in its way - is a lot more powerful than any of us.
Hurricane Irene is expected to impact New York on Saturday, with the worst conditions...likely late Saturday night into Sunday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center.
- You can find New York's official hurricane guide with resources and tips here.
- The evacuation zone finder, which tells residents by address whether or not they need to evacuate, is here.
- For general info on Hurricane Irene's impact on New York, visit here or call 311.
- The map for evacuation zones and a list of public shelters is here.
- Zone A is colored orange. Zone B and Zone C, the two next most dangerous zones, are colored yellow and green, respectively.
Read the fare, toll suspension notice below:
Governor Cuomo Announces Suspension of Certain MTA Fares and Tolls to Facilitate Evacuation
MTA working to ease evacuation for residents in Zone A and the Far Rockaways
Albany, NY (August 26, 2011)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that in order to facilitate the mandatory evacuation of residents living in low-lying Zone A areas and the Far Rockaways, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will suspend certain fares and tolls.
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, Governor Cuomo said.
The fare and toll suspension is effective in the following areas:
- Tolls are already suspended at the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.
- Starting at 8:00 PM today, the following changes will go into effect:
- Tolls will be suspended on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
- Fares will be suspended on buses throughout the city.
- Fares will be suspended for subway and rail passengers at stations in the mandatory evacuation area.
Laura is a U.S. politics reporter for the International Business Times. She was always fascinated by the BBC World News each morning on the radio in Jamaica. That, and a love...