10/28/2012 08:53 pm ET

New York City Prepares For Hurricane Sandy

NEW YORK -- Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers had been ordered to evacuate and the city's mass transit system was shut down on Sunday as officials braced for storm surges of up to 11 feet from approaching Hurricane Sandy.

New Yorkers were preparing everywhere as the wind started to whip up. Cinemas were removing letters from their marquees, emergency shelters were taking in residents with no other place to go, and one man on Twitter wrote that "If you didn't see Hunger Games, just go to Whole Foods in Union Square, NY. It's pretty much the same thing."

On Coney Island, Maya Haddad, 30, was leading an effort to shield her boardwalk business, the Brooklyn Beach Shop. Members of the Coney Island Freak Show were among the neighborhood men helping her fill and place sandbags.

She had just refurbished the shop with city help. "New floor, new walls, new plumbing, new furniture, new furnishings, new everything," she fretted.

Haddad said she and her cashier were taking bets as to how many light bulbs on the store's sign -- also new -- would make it through the storm.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg cautioned that the approximately 375,000 people living in "Zone A" evacuation areas should seek refuge with friends and family or, barring that, head to one of 76 hurricane shelters in the city.

Warning of a "large and dangerous storm surge," Bloomberg told New Yorkers on Sunday afternoon that "time is running out."

He stressed that "if you refuse to evacuate you're not only putting yourself at risk, but also the first responders who will have to assist you in an emergency."

But not everyone was heeding the mayor's advice.

Deidre Smith was eating a chili dog, cheese fries, and drinking a Corona at Nathan's Famous. She said she'd come from Staten Island to Coney Island specifically to watch the storm and take pictures.

"It's going to be raining, it's going to be cold, but it's going to be beautiful," she said.

Smith's arm was in a sling, the result of a recent motorcycle accident. She had on a waterproof motorcycle jacket and a few layers of warm clothes, and a Romeo y Julieta cigar in her pocket. "I'm an adventurer," she explained. "Life is worth living."

Meteorologists warned of potentially far-reaching consequences as the storm makes landfall in New Jersey between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

The city's schools were to be closed on Monday, along with many large employers and colleges. Con Edison, the electricity provider for most of the city, warned that it could be forced to preemptively shut down some underground electrical equipment to avoid damage from storm surges.

The MTA, which runs the city's subways, was faced with the possibility that tunnels for the city's subways, the lifeblood of the metropolitan area, could be flooded.

If the subways do flood in just the wrong way, right around high tide and with a full moon adding more force, one expert has warned that the result could be up to $58 billion in economic damages. Much will depend on exactly when -- and with how much of a punch -- the storm makes landfall.