When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday morning that New York City’s public transportation will halt as Hurricane Sandy approaches, he triggered a rush of cancellations as well as preparation and evacuation plans for millions of residents in the tri-state area.
Cuomo said all Metropolitan Transit Authority service -- subways, buses and commuter rail -- will start closing down at 7 p.m. Sunday, until after the storm passes. The New York Times reported that Cuomo not only closed down transportation for safety reasons but also to discourage New Yorkers from traveling in dangerous conditions. The eye of Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit the New York/New Jersey area Monday evening, but the storm's heavy rain and winds will start Sunday.
Service for the Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road will end by 9 p.m. Sunday. PATH train service between Manhattan and New Jersey will stop at midnight, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.
“The transportation system is the lifeblood of the New York City region, and suspending all service is not a step I take lightly,” Cuomo said. “But keeping New Yorkers safe is the first priority, and the best way to do that is to make sure they are out of harm’s way before gale-force winds can start wreaking havoc on trains and buses.”
YNN warned that airport delays in one major city often have a domino effect in other metropolitan regions.
“For the next several days folks should check the status of their flights prior to leaving for the airport,” said Aviation Commissioner Christina Callahan. “The good news is the airlines have already gone on record stating that they are going to wave the re-booking fees for people who choose to re-book, or if they have to, so I think that's a positive step that the airlines have made.”
President Barack Obama has commanded FEMA to closely monitor the situation. The emergency agency has already sent liaison officers to Washington, D.C., Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia to prepare for the worst, according to CBS.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned residents that the worst-case scenario could include flooding in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Battery Park. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told citizens that there’s the possibility they could be without power for a week or 10 days. On Saturday night Amtrak began canceling service all along the Eastern Seaboard.
One expert from the National Hurricane Center told the New York Times that people living in the Mid-Atlantic States up through New England should brace for a “long-duration event.”
New York Homeland Security Commissioner Jerome Hauer told Bloomberg News that winds as high as 80 mph could whip for as long as 24 hours.
“The worst-case scenario is that the storm hits the mid-Jersey area,” he said. “That forces water from the ocean into New York Harbor and we get significant flooing in New York City, particularly Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.”
Safety officials reminded residents to stock up on drinkable water, canned goods and a stock of non-perishable food items. Other essentials include flashlights, batteries, plastic bags and tarps. Car owners were warned to keep their vehicles fueled with at least half a tank of gas throughout the storm and for pet owners to plan in the event that shelters are closed.
“There’s no need to panic,” Cuomo said on Friday. “We have a lot of time, and we’re prepared for any eventuality.”