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Residents, Tourists Seek Higher Ground

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene causing traffic jams, gas shortages along coast       

NYC orders first-ever mandatory evacuations; mass transit to be hit across Northeast

Please go to the link NBC for VIDEO
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 7 minutes ago2011-08-26T21:38:46
Top developments:

  • 2.3 million under evacuation orders; 300,000 are in NYC
  • NYC, N.J., Philadelphia to suspend mass transit service during part of weekend
  • Storm begins to hit Carolinas; maximum winds weaken to 100 mph
  • Obama to leave vacation island a day early due to Irene
NEW YORK -- With more coastal cities ordering evacuations ahead of Hurricane Irene, residents and tourists alike from North Carolina to New York City were moving toward higher ground.
Traffic jams as long as 20 miles were reported and some service stations in New Jersey and other areas had run out of gasoline, according to the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks supplies and prices. Gasoline demand jumped 20 percent to 40 percent in Mid-Atlantic states, the service said.

Evacuation orders covered 1 million people in New Jersey, 315,000 in Maryland, 300,000 in New York City, 300,000 in North Carolina, 200,000 in Virginia and 100,000 in Delaware.
"This is probably the largest number of people that have been threatened by a single hurricane in the United States," said Jay Baker, a geography professor at Florida State University.
New York, the nation's largest city, was among those announcing evacuations Friday.
"We've never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn't be doing it now if we didn't think this storm had the potential to be very serious,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in warning some 300,000 people living in low-lying areas.
Earlier Friday, President Barack Obama warned East Coast residents to prepare for the worst, saying all indications point to a "historic" storm.
"Don't wait, don't delay," the president said from his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where many were already leaving ahead of Irene. Obama and his family had planned to leave the island on Saturday, but the White House on Friday said it had been moved up to Friday evening.
Video: Hurricane Irene to bring extensive storm surge
Irene not only is packing 100 mph winds, it is also massive: hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles from the center, and tropical-storm winds extend 290 miles. Up to 15 inches of rain could be dumped across the East Coast by the time she barrels through.
By 5 p.m. ET Friday, Irene remained a Category 2 storm with top winds near 100 mph — 15 mph less than overnight.
Little change in strength was expected by the time the heart of the storm reaches the North Carolina coast on Saturday morning and Irene should then drop to a Category 1 storm with winds around 80 mph as it moves into the Northeast.
Even as a Category 1 storm, Irene has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage. At least 65 million people are in its projected track.

"One of my greatest nightmares was having a major hurricane go up the whole Northeast coast," said Max Mayfield, a former National Hurricane Center director. "This is going to be a real challenge."
Rain from Irene's outer bands began falling along the North and South Carolina coast early Friday. Swells and 6- to 9-foot waves were reported along the Outer Banks. Thousands had already lost power as the fringes of the storm began raking the shore and North Carolina was told to expect storm surges up to 11 feet.
Hurricane warnings extend along the North Carolina coast all the way up into New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
How to prepare, really, tips from a hurricane vet
Below is a look at impacts and preparations by region:
New York CityBloomberg ordered an evacuation by 5 p.m. Saturday for low-lying areas that include the Battery Park City complex on the southern end of Manhattan; Coney Island, famed for its boardwalk and amusement park; the beachfront community of the Rockaways; and other neighborhoods around the city.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said subways, buses and commuter trains in the city, on Long Island and in the northern suburbs will be suspended starting around noon Saturday.
Cuomo added that 1,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen would help over the weekend
The George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges, among others, were ordered shut if winds top 60 mph, as was the New York State Thruway.
Video: Bloomberg: 'Prepare for the worst, hope for the best'
Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have said they can't run the transit system once sustained winds reach 39 mph, and they need an eight-hour lead time to shut it down.
Officials have entreated residents to take it upon themselves to get out early, but it remained unclear how many would heed the warnings that subways and buses might not be there for them if they waited.
A hurricane watch was in effect for New York City and Long Island for Sunday, with storm conditions possible Saturday night.
The MTA has never before halted its entire system — which carries about 5 million passengers on an average weekday — in advance of a storm, though the system was seriously hobbled by an August 2007 rainstorm that disabled or delayed every one of the city's subway lines.
Readers capture Hurricane Irene's approachOn Thursday, Bloomberg ordered nursing homes and five hospitals in low-lying areas evacuated beginning Friday and advised residents on the southern tip of Manhattan and on Brooklyn's Coney Island to start moving items upstairs.
"We do not have the manpower to go door-to-door and drag people out of their homes," he said. "Nobody's going to get fined. Nobody's going to go to jail. But if you don't follow this, people might die."
Apartment building managers emailed residents, telling them to close windows and expect power outages. Flyers were posted in building lobbies.
Forecasters said Irene passing near Manhattan could lead to a nightmare scenario: shattered glass falling from skyscrapers, flooded subways and seawater coursing through the streets.
Even if the winds aren't strong enough to damage buildings in a metropolis made largely of brick, concrete and steel, a lot of New York's subway system and other infrastructure is underground and subject to flooding in the event of an unusually strong storm surge or heavy rains.
Slideshow: Cartoonists poke at Irene (on this page)New York City's two airports also are close to the water and could be inundated, as could densely packed neighborhoods, if the storm pushes ocean water into the city's waterways.
In the low-lying Financial District surrounding Wall Street, the New York Fed was readying contingency plans but expected normal functioning of its open market operations on Monday, a spokesman said.
The city had a brush with a tropical storm, Hanna, in 2008 that dumped 3 inches of rain in Manhattan.
In the last 200 years, New York has seen only a few significant hurricanes. In 1821, a hurricane raised tides by 13 feet in an hour and flooded all of Manhattan south of Canal Street, the southernmost tip of the city. The area now includes Wall Street and the World Trade Center memorial.
Readers capture Hurricane Irene's approachNorth CarolinaTraffic was steady as people left the Outer Banks. Tourists were ordered to leave the barrier islands Thursday, though local officials estimated Friday that about half the residents on two of the islands have ignored evacuation orders.
As a result, officials ordered dozens of body bags.
"I anticipate we're going to have people floating on the streets, and I don't want to leave them lying there," said Richard Marlin, fire chief for one of the seven villages on Hatteras. "The Coast Guard will either be pulling people off their roofs like in Katrina or we'll be scraping them out of their yards."
In Nags Head, police officer Edward Mann cruised the streets in search of cars in driveways — a telltale sign some planned to stay behind. He warned those that authorities wouldn't be able to help holdouts, and that electricity and water could be out for days.
Price gougers put on noticeSome told Mann they're staying because they feel safe or because the storm won't be as bad as predicted. Mann, 25, said some have told him they've ridden out more storms than years he's been alive.
Bucky Domanski, 71, was among those who told Mann he wasn't leaving. The officer handed the retired salesman a piece of paper warning of the perils of staying behind. Domanski said he understood.
"I could be wrong, but everything meteorologists have predicted never pans out," Domanski said. "I don't know, maybe I've been lulled to sleep. But my gut tells me it's not going to be as bad as predicted. I hope I'm right."
Video: N.C. Gov.: Preparing for worst, praying for best As thousands fled beach towns, some farmers began early harvests to minimize any losses to Irene.
VirginiaAfter the Outer Banks, the next target for Irene was the Hampton Roads region of southeast Virginia, a jagged network of inlets and rivers that floods easily. Emergency officials have said the region is more threatened by storm surge, the high waves that accompany a storm, than wind.
Gas stations there were low on fuel Friday, and grocery stores scrambled to keep water and bread on the shelves.
Few people were left along the coast of Virginia Beach, where officials ordered the mandatory evacuation of the city's Sandbridge section.
Similar orders were issued for at least 10 other localities and some roads inland had backups 7-8 miles long.
MarylandThe beach community of Ocean City was taking no chances, ordering thousands of people to leave.
"This is not a time to get out the camera and sit on the beach and take pictures of the waves," said Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Washington, D.C.Irene forced the postponement of Sunday's planned dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. While a direct strike on the nation's capital appeared slim, organizers said the forecasts of wind and heavy rain made it too dangerous to summon a throng they initially expected to number up to 250,000 strong.
Story: Are you in Irene's path? Share photos, if it's safe to do so New JerseyTransit trains will stop running at noon Saturday, Gov. Chris Christie said Friday.
Aiming to speed up evacuations, Christie also suspended tolls on all parts of the Garden State Parkway south of the Raritan River and the Atlantic City Expressway.
Summer resort towns were emptying as officials ordered mandatory evacuation of the popular tourist areas along the state's coastal barrier islands.
Story: Irene to bring outages, scattered shortages of gas
Hundreds of thousands of people were likely to be affected by the orders, which included evacuation of such heavily visited towns as Wildwood, Ocean City and Avalon, all in Cape May County where the summer tourist population is typically 750,000 people.
Traffic was jammed for some 20 miles on the Garden State Parkway, said Mike Durkin, who drove home to Jenkintown, Pa., from the Jersey shore.
"I think there is a lot of nervous energy," he said. "There are people who have been there for 30 years who always rode out the storms before. A neighbor told me he just wasn't going to take a chance on this one though," he added.
Video: Christie issues stern warning of Irene to N.J. residents All 11 of Atlantic City's casinos were ordered to close by noon Saturday, he added. The city's casinos have shut down only twice before, in 1985 for Hurricane Gloria and in 2006 because of a state government shutdown.
PhiladelphiaMass transit in the city and suburbs will be shut down early Sunday morning, officials said Friday.
Interactive: Hurricane facts, figures & preparation (on this page)ConnecticutGov. Daniel Malloy declared a state of emergency and warned there could be prolonged power outages if Irene dumps up to a foot of rain on already saturated ground.
He said emergency responders must be ready in event of any evacuations from heavily developed urban areas. "We are a much more urban state than we were in 1938," he said, referring to the year that the so-called "Long Island Express" hurricane killed 600 people and caused major damage with 17-foot storm surges and high winds.
At Mystic Seaport, a popular "living history" museum that depicts 19th century New England seacoast life, staff members were hauling parts of the collections to higher ground. The museum will be closed on Saturday and Sunday as staffers load up sandbags.
Story: Airlines begin canceling flights as Irene nears
BostonWhile some residents flocked to the supermarket for bottled water and nonperishable food, others rushed to the local hardware store.
"Our number of customers has tripled in the last day or two as people actually said 'wow, this thing is going to happen,'" said Jack Gurnon, owner of Charles Street Supply, a hardware store in Boston's wealthy Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Tape for windows, flashlights and batteries were flying off shelves, but Gurnon said people were worried about flooding and have been scooping up sump pumps, too.
Rhode IslandThe towns of Narragansett and South Kingstown on Friday announced mandatory evacuations for residents in flood-prone areas for no later than 10 a.m. Sunday.
FloridaWhile avoiding a direct hit, the state did see the first U.S. injuries from Irene when eight people were washed off a jetty in West Palm Beach on Thursday by a large wave churned up by the storm. All survived.
BahamasIrene exited the northernmost part of the archipelago by midday Friday.
The government said the storm knocked out communications to islands such as Eleuthera and Abaco and that only partial reports of damage were available.
No reports of deaths or injuries were received, but 70 homes on the southern island of Acklins were destroyed, 29 sustained major damage and 84 received minor damage.
The capital sustained relatively minor flooding and damage.
Insured losses in the Caribbean from Hurricane Irene will be between $500 million and $1.1 billion, risk assessor firm Air Worldwide said on Friday, adding that the Bahamas will account for more than 60 percent of the loss.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report



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