New York Storm Evacuation Plan Discussed as Sandy Approaches

NYC Officials Discussing Plans to Evacuate Areas, Close Subways
Corey Hutterli works on securing his sailboat with rope as the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy are felt in Miami Beach, Florida. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New York City officials discussed plans for evacuations and subway closings to deal with Hurricane Sandy as Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in all of the state’s 62 counties.

The so-called superstorm is expected to make landfall between Delaware and central New Jersey on Oct. 30, according to forecasters. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it’s too early to determine if the city’s low-lying areas, home to 375,000 residents, will be evacuated.

“This is a very dangerous storm,” Bloomberg said today at a City Hall news conference. “Hopefully, tomorrow night we’ll have better news that it’s likely to go somewhere else, but even then, it could change at the last minute, because that’s the way the weather is.”

Bloomberg said he will update residents tomorrow afternoon or evening. If areas are evacuated, the city will have 65 shelters available that will be stocked with food and supplies. Students should plan to go to school Oct. 29, the mayor said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s subways, said in a statement that its hurricane plan calls for shutting down service if winds are sustained at 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour or more.

Worst Case

The storm’s predicted landfall puts New York City in the path of its strongest winds, which, wrapping around the eastern side of the system, could be sustained at as much as 80 mph for 24 hours, state Homeland Security Commissioner Jerome Hauer said in an interview in Albany.

“The worst-case scenario is that the storm hits in the mid-Jersey area,” he said. “That forces water from the ocean into New York Harbor and we get significant flooding in New York City, particularly in Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.”

Forecasters say Hurricane Sandy may develop into a superstorm as it meets another low-pressure system rushing eastward across the U.S. With landfall still not expected for about three days, the storm’s path may still shift, though its size and predicted power mean damage will be widespread regardless of where it strikes directly, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Irene’s Wrath

Still, the storm’s current predicted path means it will probably be worse than Tropical Storm Irene, Hauer said. The August 2011 blast of wind and rain left more than 4 million homes and businesses without power, and caused $3 billion in damage across the eastern U.S. Some of the worst damage was north of New York City in the state’s Catskills region and Vermont.

“Unfortunately, the areas hit by Irene are under the gun right now,” he said.

Cuomo urged New Yorkers to remain calm.

“There’s no need to panic,” Cuomo said today at a news conference in Hauppauge in central Long Island. “We have a lot of time, and we’re prepared for any eventuality.”

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

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