Early this morning Irene came ashore near Cape Lookout, North Carolina. She is still tracking to parallel the Atlantic coast all the way into the Canadian Maritimes. Roughly two million evacuees are on the move to make room for Irene… especially her storm surge.
At this point Irene is forecast to pass over the New York metropolitan area on Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane. Right now the eye seems likely to move over Long Island which could reduce wind-impact on the more densely populated urban core.
The New York City Office of Emergency Management is reporting:
Due to the approach of Hurricane Irene, the City has issued a mandatory evacuation order for New Yorkers who live in the low-lying Zone “A” coastal areas across all five boroughs and the Rockaways. These areas include: Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway, Beach Channel, South Beach, Midland Beach, and Battery Park City. People should be out of these areas by 5 pm on Saturday.
Residents who live in Zone A are strongly encouraged to stay with friends or family outside an evacuation zone. Evacuation Centers are open for residents who have no alternative shelter.
MTA service including subways, buses, and railroads will begin to shut down at noon tomorrow, so please prepare to evacuate immediately.
The New York Times has a very helpful interactive map of the NYC evacuation zones.
As noted in previous posts, NYC has a great emergency management community. While there are intense rivalries between certain agencies. There is also effective — and regularly exercised — incident command. There is a professionalism, competence, and commitment to mission that very few jurisdictions can equal.
My only critique of NYC emergency services has been a tendency to depend too much on command-and-control structures and systems. Its very depth of expertise could, in a truly catastrophic context, undermine its effectiveness. Experts can sometimes get in the way of creative response to the unexpected.
While I think Sunday and the aftermath could be tough, right now — cross my fingers, knock on wood, et cetera — I do not anticipate a catastrophic impact on New York. If so, the expertise and command-and-control bias will provide significant benefit. I will be interested in what our New York City readers have to say on Sunday and Monday… assuming they can let us know.
For a different angle on the catastrophe or non-catastrophe issue, please read an excellent post by Nate Silver at the New York Times blog packed with meaningful data. He calls it: A New York Hurricane could be a Multibillion Dollar Catastrophe.