New York City could effectively be shut down for days in the wake of Hurricane Irene. The city's subway and mass transit system is closed, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday ahead of Irene's arrival subways weren't likely to be reopened on Monday.
Bloomberg also said it's doubtful that power to some parts of the city which may have to be turned off to protect infrastructure may not be back on beyond Monday.
Without a subway system running, New York would remain at virtually a standstill days after Irene is scheduled to depart after making a historic hit on the city Sunday. Roughly five million people use New York's subway system on weekdays. Without it, the city doesn't have the transportation infrastructure to operate at normal speed.
Bloomberg closed New York's MTA, including subways and bus lines, at noon on Saturday as sharpened forecasts pegged Hurricane Irene making landfall somewhere between New York City and Long Island. The mayor also issued a mandatory evacuation of all New Yorkers living in Zone A, including Brooklyn's Coney Island and Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway in Queens, low-lying areas on Staten Island, and Manhattan's Battery Park City by 5 p.m. Saturday.
All metropolitan airports are closed, and JFK, near the water in Queens County, is a major international hub that is exposed to high risk of damage, as are low-lying areas of the city, including the Financial District which could take on feet of water mixed with salt water from the Atlantic as Irene surges inland.
Nearly 350,000 New York residents have been ordered to evacuate, and Bloomberg said about 14,000 have sought shelter in emergency housing provided by the city.
New York taxis were mandated to take residents from flood zones to safe areas, and new pricing was set. Taxis were ordered to charge $10 to travel within one zone as a flat rate, while charging $5 for each additional zone.
With the transportation system shut down and evacuation orders in place for low-lying areas including Manhattan's Financial District, New York slowed to a rare crawl by Saturday evening as Irene made its way toward landfall in the metropolitan area. Traffic on Manhattan's West Side Highway was almost non-existent Saturday --
The evacuations and transit lines shutdowns are unprecedented for New York in advance of a weather system, but Bloomberg said Hurricane Irene demanded such attention.
Bloomberg stressed that residents urged to evacuate must heed the warnings since it could mean a matter of life or death. Since New York is in the direct path of Irene, the city could suffer a rare direct hit, with four to seven feet of storm surge in low-lying, exposed areas, and heavy rainfall and winds throughout.
Heed the warnings. It isn't cute to sit there and say, 'I'm tougher than any storm. They don't know what they're talking about,' said Bloomberg, in a press conference Saturday. I hope this is not necessary, but it's certainly prudent to protect your life. And you putting our first responders' lives in danger, where if you need them to respond later on for something that you could have prevented, just isn't smart.