New York, Aug 27: In unprecedented preparations to brave out the Hurricane Irene, New York authorities evacuated a quarter of a million residents and ordered complete shut down of the mass transit system as Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters were placed on stand by for a weekend of torrential rains and massive storms.
As Hurricane Irene closed in on the US East Coast, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered evacuation of 250,000 people in low-lying areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Neighbouring New Jersey ordered evacuation of 750,000 people out of the Cape May area.
In another first-of-its-kind decision, the authorities said they will shut down the entire transit system - a total of 468 subway stations, 840 miles of rail tracks, buses and commuter trains.
New York's mass transit system, which carries 8.5 million people on any given weekday, would bring into effect a “system-wide shut- down” at noon on Saturday. “We have never done a mandatory evacuation before and we would not be doing it now if we did not think this storm had the potential to be very serious,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference.
“You only have to look at the weather maps to understand how big this storm is and how unique it is and it is heading basically for us,” Bloomberg said.
Essential food supplies, medicine, water, batteries and flashlights flew off the shelves at departmental stores as New Yorkers lined up to refill their stockpile.
A sour experience with Hurricane Katrina meant that authorities were leaving no stone unturned this time around for Irene. PTI