Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned New Yorkers on Friday to prepare for widespread damage from high winds and flooding, while forecasters said Hurricane Sandy may turn into a "superstorm" as it meets another storm rushing towards the Metro area from the west and cold weather from the north.
Some forecasters say the storm – if it stays on the course some models predict -- may be the worst to hit the Northeast in 100 years. Effects will likely include flooding, high winds and widespread power outages, and could be much worse than last year's Hurricane Irene.
The National Weather Service is predicting sustained winds of 40 to 50 miles an hour starting late Monday with gusts in the hurricane range – higher than 70.
"Whenever or wherever this storm comes ashore, however, our city is very likely to feel its effects, in the form of high tides, high winds, and heavy rainfall lasting for several days," the mayor said at a special joint press conference with top officials. "There's the possibility of parts of our city flooding, or high winds that could force certain bridges to be closed," he added.
The Mayor said Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was coordinating its storm planning with the Office of Emergency Management. The MTA's hurricane plan calls for subway trains to be suspended "before the arrival of sustained winds of 39 miles per hour or higher," Mayor Bloomberg said. "The MTA is still reviewing whether to suspend some or all service in advance of the storm, but we are working closely with them and they have assured us ample notice will be provided of any suspension." MTA has already begun putting special covers on low-lying ventilation grates.
The mayor also warned residents to prepare for power outages and for possible evacuation.
"The Coastal Storm Plan designates as 'Zone A' the low-lying coastal areas of our city most at risk for flooding and other damage," he said. "These low-lying areas include: Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, and Red Hook and other areas along the East River in Brooklyn; all of the Rockaways, and also Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel in Queens; almost all the coastline of Staten Island; City Island, a small patch of Throgs Neck, and another patch of the South Bronx in the Bronx; and Battery Park City and stretches of the West Side waterfront and of the Lower East Side and East Village in Manhattan.
The city had not yet decided on Friday whether to order mandatory evacuations of Zone A areas, but residents of these areas should have their Go Bags ready and locate shelter in advance. Visit nyc.gov or call 3-1-1 to learn what zone you live in.
All city resident, regardless of zone, are advised to stock up on supplies including three-to-five days worth of water, medications, food, batteries and ID. The mayor advised residents to also make a Go Bag, "a bag that you could take with you if you had to leave home on a moment's notice."