For the first time, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered a mandatory evacuation of 300,000 residents of the city's coastal areas as Hurricane Irene barrels up the East Coast.
The sun is shining, but don't be misled, Bloomberg told the city. You only have to look at the weather maps to understand just how big this storm is, and how unique it is. And it's heading basically directly for us.
The evacuation order residents in Coney Island and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, Far Rockaway and Broad Channel in Queens, South Beach, Midland Beach, and other low-lying areas on Staten Island, Battery Park City in Manhattan, and some small sections of the Bronx.
Buses and subways prepared to shut on Saturday as Hurricane Irene approaches as well.
All New Jersey rail service will be suspended from noon Saturday, while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will institute a shutdown of trains and buses starting at the same time.
The suspension will include subways, buses, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Access-A-Ride. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will suspend PATH train service at noon as well.
Depending on the effect of the storm, the MTA may or may not be restored in time for rush hour Monday morning.
Bridges aren't going to fall down, but there is a point when the winds get so strong that they close because cars and trucks could be blown off them, Bloomberg added.
Hurricane Irene, a Category 2 storm currently forecast to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday.
It will slow to a Category 1 by the time it his New York, meaning it will deliver winds in excess of 40mph, but has the potential to speed up once it arrives.
We don't what they will grow to, but the full brunt of the storm if you're in its way, it's a lot more powerful than any of us, the Mayor said. Certainly the best case scenario is very high winds and a lot of rain, and very, very high tides.
This is a mandatory evacuation, Bloomberg said. By five o'clock tomorrow you have to be out. Waiting for the last minute is not a smart thing to do. This is life threatening.
NASA satellite image of Hurricane Irene moving through the Bahamas
Front loader piles sand on Long Beach on Long Island, New York ahead of Hurricane Irene
Cars drive past Hurricane evacuation Route sign in Long Beach on Long Island, New York ahead of Hurricane Irene
A trader looks at the path of Hurrican Irene on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
shopper passes by empty shelves while looking for bottled water at a Stop and Shop at Rockaway Beach in New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference in New York.
Cars exit the terminus of westbound lanes of the Atlantic City Expressway in Camden County, New Jersey