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Hurricane Irene New York: City Preps For First Hurricane In Decades

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NEW YORK -- Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were told Thursday to pack a bag and prepare to be evacuated as the nation's biggest city braced for its first hurricane in decades.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered nursing homes and five hospitals in low-lying areas evacuated beginning Friday and said he would order 270,000 other people moved by Saturday if the storm stays on its current path.

Hurricane Irene was on track to make landfall Saturday in North Carolina and then move up the East Coast, reaching the New York area by late Sunday.

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"For the general public, it's a good idea to move Friday," Bloomberg said. "Keep in mind, it is possible - I don't know that I want to say likely - but it is very conceivable ... that Saturday morning at 8 o'clock, we're going to say, `Look, the forecast has not changed. The storm is still barreling down on us. It's still very dangerous. You must get out of these areas.'"

Evacuating hundreds of thousands of people would be particularly difficult in New York, where there are about 1.6 million people in Manhattan, many without cars. There are about 6.8 million in the city's other four boroughs. (Check here to see NYC evacuation zones).

"Don't wait until the last minute," the mayor said. "If you can move out on Friday, that's great."

Bloomberg advised residents on the southern tip of Manhattan and on Brooklyn's Coney Island to start moving items upstairs and to be ready to leave immediately. Apartment building managers emailed residents, telling them to close windows and expect power outages. Flyers were posted in building lobbies.

"If you have a car and you live in a low-lying area, my suggestion is to park on top of a hill, not in the valley," Bloomberg said. "It's those kinds of things. Take some precautions now, so that if it gets to that you'll have less to do."

Irene rolled toward the Carolinas on Thursday with winds of 115 mph. The storm was expected to weaken after brushing North Carolina's Outer Banks, but it will still likely be a hurricane when it rumbles toward the Northeast.

Forecasters said passing near Manhattan could lead to a nightmare scenario: shattered glass falling from skyscrapers, flooded subways and seawater coursing through the streets.

In the last 200 years, New York has seen only a few significant hurricanes. In September of 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.

In 1938, a storm dubbed the Long Island Express came ashore about 75 miles east of the city on neighboring Long Island and then hit New England, killing 700 people and leaving 63,000 homeless.

Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, worries about a storm surge coming into Manhattan, home to some of the most valuable real estate in the country. He noted pictures from a 1944 hurricane where police in Midtown, where Times Square, Broadway theaters and the Empire State Building are located, were standing in waist-deep water.

"This is going to have a lot of impacts well away from the coastline," Fugate said. "A little bit of damage over big areas with large populations can add up fast."

In Lower Manhattan, few seemed preoccupied with preparations.

"I live on the 10th floor of a 30-story building," said Sam Laury, who lives in Battery Park City, one of the areas that Bloomberg said might be evacuated. "I'm sure I'll be fine."

Irene is a large storm, with tropical storm-force winds extending nearly 300 miles from its center. And the storm could hit at a time when high tides reach their highest levels, which could amplify flooding in a city built around bays and rivers. Some experts predict a storm surge of five feet or more. Lower Manhattan could see streets under a few feet of water.

"In many ways, a Category 2 or stronger storm hitting New York is a lot of people's nightmare, for a number of reasons," said Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.

Even if the winds aren't strong enough to damage buildings made largely of brick, concrete and steel, a lot of New York's subway system and power lines are underground. The city's airports are close to the water, too, and could be inundated, as could densely packed neighborhoods. Hospitals were told to make sure generators were ready.

Poised to brush one of the most densely populated parts of the country, Irene could cause billions or even hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, said Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado.

AP reports:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The full measure of Hurricane Irene's fury came into focus Monday as the death toll jumped to 38, New England towns battled epic floods and millions faced the dispiriting prospect of several days without electricity.

Full story here.

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Southampton Patch posts aerial photos of erosion suffered by Hamptons beaches. The photos can be viewed here.

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@ GOOD : Irene wasn't overhyped: It's already the fourth deadliest storm in the last 30 years. http://t.co/VZvHYc5

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@ ErnestScheyder : Swimming officially banned at all NYC's beaches after #irene as storm swept a lot of #sewage into waterways. #dogdaysofsummer

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According to Associated Press, 35 deaths have been confirmed in 10 states. Update here.

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@ robmarcianoCNN : Still no power at my folks place in CT. Mom says last night was their first candle light dinner in decades.

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@ NYCMayorsOffice : Most NYC animal shelters resuming services. Adopt a #ShelterPet from @NYCACC or @Bideawee or by searching @ShelterPets. #IrenePets

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The animation below, taken from 48 hours of images from NASA's GOES-13 satellite between August 27 and August 29, shows Irene passing over New York and New England and entering Canada.

NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters

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Democracy Now! reports:

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin joins us for an update from Vermont, where nearly every community is surrounded by hills and valleys, with small streams feeding into rivers. Shumlin notes that since he was sworn into office seven months ago, "this is the second major disaster as a result of storms. We had storms this spring that flooded our downtowns and put us through many of the same exercises that we’re going through right now. We didn’t used to get weather patterns like this in Vermont. The point is, we in the colder states are going to see the results of climate change first."

Read the report here.

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The Associated Press reports:

CHESTER, Vt. — Officials say more than a dozen towns in Vermont and at least three in New York are cut off, with roads and bridges washed out by flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irene.

Chris Cole of Vermont's Agency of Transportation says Monday that towns in the central and southern part of the state have been isolated by the storm.

In New York, the towns of Keene in the Adirondacks, and Windham and Phoenicia in the Catskills are effectively isolated by damage to roads and bridges.

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Expert forecasters misjudged the severity of Irene as it barreled toward the East Coast of the United States late last week. It weakened considerably by the time it hit New York.

Although some have claimed the Mayor, and Governor Cuomo, who ordered the city's subways be shut down Saturday, overreacted to Irene, the resounding general consensus is that the Mayor's 'better safe than sorry' strategy was one that worked for New York.

Read more here.

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Watch Gov. Cuomo's live briefing here.

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Reisterstown Patch reports:

More than 450,000 households in Maryland remained without power 35 hours after peak rain and winds from Hurricane Irene hit the state, and the Baltimore area could experience outages until Friday, officials said Monday.

More here.

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Princeton Patch reports that Princeton EMT Michael Kenwood died early Sunday after braving Hurricane Irene floods during a water rescue. More here.

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Cranford, New Jersey Patch reports:

Cranford officials have asked the state of New Jersey and PSE&G to give Cranford "priority status" as residents begin the daunting task of asessing the damage to their homes and cleaning the mess left in Hurrican Irene's wake.

Mayor Dan Aschenbach spent the majority of his time late Sunday and Monday touring the township to assist with cleanup and rescue efforts.

Read the full story here.

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, HuffPost has compiled video footage from the disaster.

In the video below, a car floats down the river in Bennington, Vermont:

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Middleton, Connecticut Patch reports that Illiano's Pizzeria remained open on Sunday, and managed to serve hundreds of pizzas, despite the fact that they had lost power.

Read the story here.

Video courtesy of Darrell Lucas WATCH:

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Follow Hurricane Irene's path along the East Coast with this interactive map.

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Submit your photos to HuffPost's Irene slideshow.

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Ossining-Croton Patch's Christopher Michael McHugh reports on a rafting trip during the storm that ended in disaster.

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From AP:

Utility crews scrambled to restore power after Hurricane Irene raked across the Eastern Seaboard. But even with help from thousands of out-of-state repair crews, power companies say it may be days before some people see the lights back on.

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@ nickconfessore : Raw footage of @NYGovCuomo's first aerial survey of #irene damage via @stateofpolitics. More footage later. http://t.co/yxVHleC

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From HuffPost's John Celock:

The Army Corps of Engineers will be touring the Somerset County, NJ communities of Bound Brook and Manville today. Both communities were hit with flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Both towns have a history of flooding, including during after Hurricane Floyd hit New Jersey in 1999.

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We asked, and you responded. Here's a sample of what Huffington Post readers saw during and after Irene.

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@ NYCMayorsOffice : Hundreds of Con Ed crews are on the streets working to restore service to about 38,000 NYC customers currently without #power.

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The New York Times describes the scene in a school gym shelter over the weekend:

The sleepover was an international scene. Guests spoke English, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian and Farsi.

Lying on a cot next to her mother and her aunt, Kimia Shahandeh, 25, studied for the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or Toefl, and dipped in and out of “Funny in Farsi,” a memoir by an Iranian immigrant to the United States. Azadeh Lassman, Ms. Shahandeh’s aunt, chatted in Farsi with her sister and tore up pieces of paper to make a deck of cards.

Read the full story here.

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The Associated Press reports:

NEW YORK -- Wireless networks fell quiet Sunday in some coastal areas of North Carolina and southern Virginia, but calls were going through in most areas affected by Tropical Storm Irene, the Federal Communications Commission said.

In Lenoir, Greene and Carteret counties of North Carolina, 50 percent to 90 percent of cell towers went offline, said Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett, head of the public safety bureau of the Federal Communications Commission.

More here.

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@ breakingirene : Vermont State Police confirm second death in Wilmington area following devastating flooding - Burlington Free Press http://t.co/xM7Y9AM

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The Brattleboro Reformer provides a video slideshow of images from around Windham County, Vermont.

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Boston.com/Boston Globe report:

@ BostonUpdate : Irene's 1st fatality in Mass; public works employee in Southbridge electrocuted by downed power line at home http://t.co/ZLYC7BZ #MAIrene

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Around the Web

Hurricane Irene: New York City Direct Hit? - ABC News

Hurricane Irene: N.Y. and four other states declare emergency ...

East Coast in Irene's path, scrambles to prepare - Yahoo! News

New York Region Prepares for Hurricane Irene - NYTimes.com

Hurricane Irene: New York declares state of emergency - Telegraph

A New York Hurricane Could Be a Multibillion-Dollar Catastrophe