NEW YORK (PIX11/CNN)—As Hurricane Irene starts barreling herself towards the Outer Banks, five states declared a State of Emergency Thursday ahead of what will most certainly be a messy and wet weekend.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley declared emergencies for their states, while North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency in counties east of Interstate 95. The emergency declarations allow states to free funds and prepare resources that may be needed.
If Irene continues along its current track, "from a flooding perspective, this could be a hundred-year event," Christie said. He encouraged voluntary evacuations to begin immediately. "Anybody who is on a barrier island should go," he said.
Christie said it was too soon to know whether there will be mandatory evacuations.
New York City's Emergency Operations Center sprung into action as early as Wednesday when an alphabet soup of city agencies gathered at their massive facility in Brooklyn to work around the clock. Crews are preparing a coordinated citywide response to Hurricane Irene which is headed our way this weekend, though by the time it hits New York it might be reduced in strength to tropical storm level.
If Irene hits the city with the currently-predicted fury, New Yorkers in some low-lying levels will be evacuated to the a number of area shelters. Mayor Bloomberg tweeted today that evacuation shelters will be open for residents living in low-lying areas as of 4:00 p.m. Friday.
SEE ALL NEW YORK CITY HURRICANE EVACUATION ZONES
At a press conference Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he will decide by late Friday whether residents living in the city's "Zone-A" would be made to evacuate for Irene who is expected to hit the area Sunday. Neighborhoods in "Zone-A" include Battery Park City in Manhattan, Coney Island in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway inQueens.
"We're taking the steps now to ensure that the city is prepared, that essential services can continue to be provided, and that the proper warnings are being given to people," Cas Holloway, New York's Deputy Mayor for Operations, told reporters a press conference Wednesday.
At the command center, staffers monitored the movement of the coming storm on huge digital maps displayed on a network of flat-screen TV's and monitors, showing up-to-the minute measurements of the severity of the possible threat. Irene could be the strongest hurricane to hit the Northeast in years.
Meanwhile, on Long Island, the LIRR is considering suspending service beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said at a press conference Thursday. Levy stressed to residents that a mandatory evacuation will likely happen if Irene continues on her path.
Nassau County's barrier islands will also be evacuated, Nassau County executive Edward Mangano said, telling residents to prepare to leave their home on short notice.
Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan on Thursday urged residents on Fire Island to voluntarily evacuate before it becomes mandatory.
Many New Yorkers admit they would be unprepared to evacuate if so ordered.
"I never thought about leaving the house to go anywhere...no, I'm not really prepared," Brooklyn resident April Thomas-Belton told PIX 11 News.
Over 100 emergency shelters are ready if needed for New Yorkers forced to move out of the path of Irene should that need arise. If you don't have an emergency kit with basic supplies city officials encourage you to get one as soon as possible.
"As Hurricane Irene moves toward the East Coast of the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging all residents in East Coast states to take steps now to prepare their families and businesses for hurricanes and severe weather. Visit www.Ready.gov , www.ready.gov/america/local/nj.html, or www.Listo.gov for helpful tips on preparing for hurricanes, flash flooding and other disasters."