By Phil Corso
Though the city has not yet ordered any evacuations in anticipation of the potentially dangerous Hurricane Sandy looming over the Northeast by the end of the weekend, various city agencies and leaders have started preparing for the worst.
In a news conference Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a more detailed update on the course of the storm would be made Saturday afternoon or evening. The city will also start closing its senior centers early Monday, and an announcement regarding school closures will be made on Sunday, Bloomberg said.
“Whenever or wherever this storm comes ashore, our city is very likely to feel its effects: high tides, high winds, and heavy rainfall,” Bloomberg said. “Common sense says we should start taking precautions. This is a potentially dangerous storm.”
Starting Saturday, there will be an increasing chance of what the National Weather Service has called a dangerous coastal storm, which could include the potential for heavy rainfall and significant urban, small stream and river flooding. The storm also has the potential to bring high winds, causing widespread downing of trees and power lines as well as significant shoreline impacts from coastal flooding and beach erosion, the weather service said.
Some forecasts of the storm have indicated that tidal surges associated with the storm Monday, and especially Tuesday, could be worse than Hurricane Irene in 2011, according to Consolidated Edison. The utility company said personnel and field crews were preparing for conditions that could affect electric, gas and steam systems when the storm moves into New York City and Westchester County.
Current projections of the storm’s path could also create unsafe conditions for New York City subways, buses and railroad lines, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. If winds were to exceed 39 mph, the MTA said all service would be shut down. The MTA last suspended its service during Irene in August 2011.
“Our first priority is always safety, and the MTA is taking no chances with the safety of our customers, our employees and our equipment,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Whatever happens, we’ll be ready.”
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he has suspended his campaign field operations to help constituents prepare for the storm. Instead of campaign literature, the senator’s campaign volunteers shifted gears and have started distributing Office of Emergency Management brochures outlining how residents should prepare for the pending hurricane. Those same brochures were also being dropped off at local senior centers, Avella said.
“As we learned from Hurricane Irene last year, it is important that residents are well-informed and take the appropriate actions to keep themselves and their families safe,” Avella said. “That is why I am suspending my campaign operations because politics should take a backseat to public safety. We will work hard to try and reach out to as many individuals as possible these next few days.”
Earlier on Friday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley declared a State of Emergency in anticipation of the storm.
The ultimate impact of the storm, the National Weather Service said, relies on the exact track and evolution of the storm as it works its way up the coast this weekend.
As of Friday afternoon, the storm was moving north at 6 mph near the southern tip of Florida with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, the National Weather Service said.
The National Weather Service classifies storms as hurricanes when their wind speed reaches between 74 mph and 110 mph.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.