New York City officials have begun preparations to evacuate residents from low-lying areas, if necessary, as the rapidly strengthening Hurricane Irene could reach the area by midday Saturday.
According to predictions, the hurricane, which thrashed the Bahamas Wednesday and is moving toward North Carolina coast, could threaten the densely populated U.S. Northeast, including New York, starting on Saturday.
The sense is that we're going to be facing a strong tropical storm with winds of 40 to 60 mph, said Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno.
Bruno added that the city's agencies were preparing for a worst-case scenario of a Category 1 hurricane with winds surpassing 72 mph and waters surging dangerously in low-lying areas, the Associated Press reported. With five hospitals and nursing homes in the area, officials were readying to possibly evacuate the most frail and needy.
Zone A, the part of the city most likely to be flooded, includes the southern tip of Manhattan as well as Brooklyn's Coney Island and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.
Evacuees will be able to avail public transport facilities before transit authorities cease operations, and they could use shelter on higher ground at dozens of city evacuation centers, Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway said.
In the event that any kind of evacuation was needed we would be using every available communication means and working with people in the local community, he said.
The officials are planning to shut down city's subway stations and tunnels ahead of time to reduce damage to the infrastructure, as these places are most likely to be flooded.
Officials asked residents to stock emergency supply kits at home, including bottled water, non-perishable food and a battery-powered radio.
Long Island emergency officials asked residents to be prepared in the event of being stranded this weekend. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said school buses might be used to evacuate residents to storm shelters. This is a good time to get prepared again in your homes. There's items that you should stock up on, those that need to move or possibly be evacuated. Perhaps seniors should think about having their medications refilled and having enough on hand, Mangano told CBS New York.
You have to recognize that you're living here on an island, and island living represents certain risks, Mangano said. And those risks appear now, at least, to be tracking toward us.
Officials haven't decided whether to close beaches or limit access to the water to reduce risk. Emergency management officials will be available all weekend to avert risks of the dangerous storm.