NEW YORK (PIX11)—Mayor Bloomberg and former MTA chairman Jay Walder addressed the city Thursday evening, emphasizing that New Yorkers need to brace themselves for a storm that could cause widespread flooding, the cancellation of MTA service, structural damage to buildings and mandatory evacuations of low-lying neighborhoods.
Chances of potential flooding are heightened by extreme tides that will come with Sunday's new moon, the day Irene is expected to smash into New York. "Earlier today, I mentioned the low-lying areas of our city that are most at risk for flooding and other damage from a hurricane and have been designated as Zone A low-lying areas in our Coastal Storm Plan," Bloomberg said. "These Zone A low-lying areas include 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, and Battery Park City in Manhattan."
Bloomberg urged New Yorkers living in those areas to take advantage of Friday's expected good weather to prepare themselves to evacuate to one of the City's shelters, or prepare their homes for the storm. The shelters will open at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon for those who want to voluntarily evacuate.
"As regards to the general public, we will make a decision about whether to order a mandatory evacuation of Zone A low-lying areas by 8:00 AM Saturday, the day after tomorrow," Bloomberg said.
As for city hospitals, five are located in Zone A areas and preparations are already being made.
According to Bloomberg:
"These hospitals are now in the process of reducing their patient caseload in order to be ready for any increased emergency care that might arise. In addition, tonight Coney Island Hospital will, under the direction of State health authorities, begin placing patients in vacant beds in other hospitals in other parts of the city.
We're also notifying the other hospitals in these Zone A low-lying areas, as well as nursing homes and senior centers in these low-lying Zone A areas that they must -- I repeat the word must -- evacuate beginning tomorrow and complete the process by 8:00 PM tomorrow night, unless they get permission to stay in place based on the ability of the particular facility to keep operating during hurricane conditions. If any of these facilities need help moving patients, we'll be able to provide it.
That decision -- not to evacuate -- should they want to make it, will have to be made in conjunction with City Health Commissioner Tom Farley and his staff, and in consultation with the State Department of Health. As many of you know, Dr. Farley is a veteran of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans where he headed community health services at Tulane University, and Dr. Farley will draw on a wealth of experience that he has in making those decisions."
New Yorkers were also warned that, in case of evacuations, there may be traffic and potential MTA disruptions. Because many of the subway trains are generally stored in low-lying areas, a large number of cars will be taken out of the system and stored underground to avoid flooding. Even if Irene doesn't become a worst-case scenario, trains will be operating with delays and, in case of evacuations, may see high traffic.
Jay Walder, who spoke after Bloomberg, said track flooding and high winds could lead to the cancellation of subway service Sunday, possibly into Monday. The MTA will be looking for sustained, 39-mph winds -- conditions that would force the cancellation of service.
According to the MTA website: "Because of the severity of the wind and rain associated with a hurricane, there may be a partial or full shut down of our services to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. We are also prepared to implement evacuation plans if the Mayor and Governor decide that is necessary. We urge our customers to check mta.info frequently and to consider the impacts of this storm when making travel plans through the weekend."