Mayor Bloomberg Says to Decide by 8 a.m. Saturday on Hurricane Evacuations

New York officials intend to shut down the city’s mass transit system this weekend given the predicted strength of Hurricane Irene, said Jay Walder, chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Walder said he would order the suspension of subway and bus services throughout the city if sustained winds hit 39 miles per hour (63 kilometers per hour). He said he expects to begin shutting down the system on Saturday afternoon to give workers an opportunity to shelter trains and buses safely. Service may not resume until after rush hour Monday, Walder said.

The subways typically carry about 5.1 million riders on a weekday, the MTA says on its website. If the suspension goes into effect on the 107-year-old subway system, it would be the first such shutdown in his memory, the MTA chairman said. A shutdown of the mass transit system will take at least eight hours, he said.

“We cannot guarantee the safety at 39 miles per hour,” Walder said during a City Hall news conference. “At some point Saturday mass transit is not going to be an option.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said service would likely be restricted along with access to tunnels and bridges during the weekend.

“Fundamentally you are not going to have mass transit take you around Saturday late in the afternoon, into Monday,” the mayor said. Bridges and tunnels would remain open on a “case by case basis,” the mayor said.

He urged residents of low-lying areas in Brooklyn, the Rockaways, downtown Manhattan and Staten Island to move their vehicles to higher ground and stay with friends and relatives who reside away from shore areas.

“The more people we can get to move earlier the better off we are,” the mayor said.

Direction and Ferocity

Bloomberg said he’d decide by 8 a.m. Saturday whether to evacuate low-lying areas including Battery Park City in Manhattan, Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways of Queens, and areas of Staten Island, depending on the latest forecast gauging Hurricane Irene’s approach and ferocity.

Elderly residents of nursing homes and patients in five hospitals located in these areas will be transferred to facilities on higher ground, beginning in Coney Island tonight to be completed by 9 p.m. tomorrow, the mayor said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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