Much of Brooklyn Is Vulnerable to Storm
By Samantha Gross, A.P. and Raanan Geberer
BROOKLYN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday urged New York City residents living in low-lying areas to line up a place to stay on high ground in case of an evacuation this weekend due to Hurricane Irene.
Bloomberg said that he expected to make a decision by late Friday whether residents in the city’s so-called “Zone-A” would need to evacuate ahead of the storm that’s now expected to hit the city Sunday. In Brooklyn, Zone A includes the Coney Island peninsula, part of Gravesend, Red Hook, the Sunset Park industrial piers, the Navy Yard area, the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront, Sheepshead Bay and the Belt Parkway.
The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has also set up sites for evacuation centers in the event of a serious storm. Most of these are schools — in Brooklyn, they include Clara Barton High School, Roosevelt High School, New York City College of Technology (City Tech), Brooklyn Technical High School and several middle schools.
“The timing is a little bit up in the air,” he said. “We want to get as close as we can to the actual event, to make sure we don’t do something unnecessary, but there is a point at which we have to, and the logistics require just going ahead.”
Residents in the zone areas should begin moving items to upper floors and gathering important documents now as a precaution, the mayor said. A network of shelters would be available during any evacuation, but Bloomberg suggested that residents with friends and relatives in safer areas of the city ask if they might be able to stay with them if forced to leave home.
Bloomberg said he would issue an executive order instituting a forced evacuation only in the worst of circumstances. A suggested evacuation is more likely, he said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said his department was most concerned about people who are not able to evacuate.
“I think most people will obviously use common sense and leave,” he said. “There are some people who obviously are not able to leave their homes under their own power. We’ll help in that regard as well.” He said EMS officers are equipped with inflatable boats; highway units will also direct traffic where flooding could occur.
The city already has crews working to clean out some of the 143,000 catch basins in the metropolis to help with street drainage. Bloomberg said that nearly $2 billion in sewer upgrades over the last decade would also help reduce flooding.
Category One has wind speeds of 74-95 mph (119.1-152.89 kph), and a sea swell, also called a storm surge of 4-5 feet (1.22-1.524 m). Damage to buildings is usually minimal, but homes that are not properly attached to foundations can be damaged and trees may be blown down.
The city has moved boats to police station houses in low-lying areas, hired emergency forest contractors and topped off hospital emergency generators with fuel in anticipation of the storm.
Department of Sanitation workers have been asked to be on the lookout for any street debris that could clog drainage.
North of the city in the Hudson River Valley, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein asked city and state officials to authorize releases from two massive reservoirs that provide drinking water to the city — a move meant to free up storage space and reduce flooding downstream if the storm dumps heavy rain. The Ashokan Reservoir is at 94 percent capacity and the Rondout Reservoir at 97 percent, Hein said.
Bloomberg said that while Long Island could face a Category 2 hurricane, New York City is not expected to be struck by the brunt of it. Instead, forecasts call for the city to see tropical storm conditions with heavy rains and winds of 60 mph or more, he said.
Category 2 features wind speeds of 96-110 mph with the sea rising 6 to 8 feet. Significant damage may be done to unanchored buildings, and these hurricanes may result in damage to the exteriors of buildings. Doors or windows can suffer the effects of a Category 2, and trees, bushes and piers suffer too.
Months after the mayor faced a public uproar over a slow cleanup following a day-after-Christmas storm, he said that the city’s emergency-response agencies were making sure that they would have adequate staff on hand over the weekend. Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway, who recently took over the role, said that the Department of Sanitation had already positioned equipment to speed the city’s storm response.
Bloomberg said that public hospitals had already stocked up on food and medical supplies in case deliveries are disrupted, and the Department for the Aging planned to deliver Sunday’s meals on Saturday to homebound seniors.
The city is also reviewing flood contingencies for the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which is scheduled to begin Monday in Queens.