Normally, the name "Irene" conjures up recollections of old ladies or traditional folk songs. That may change in the next few days. Hurricane Irene could be on track to slam into New York City this weekend, and the experts are sounding the alarm: It could be bad. According to Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist at Accuweather, Irene "could pass within 30 miles of New York City Sunday evening as a weakening Category 2 hurricane." In which case:
Widespread tree damage, major power outages and structural damage to buildings and homes would ensue. Glass windows could shatter along the sides of New York City skyscrapers.
Of course, this is all assuming that Irene continues on its current path, but nobody really knows for sure what it's going to do. Mayor Bloomberg, appropriately, is preparing "for the worst." At a press conference in Queens this morning Bloomberg warned that evacuations could even be necessary for some areas of the city:
“If the worst scenario is going to happen this weekend, we will activate other elements of our Coastal Storm Plan, including the possibility of evacuating of New Yorkers who live in low-lying areas that could be affected by such storm surges. That includes places such as Coney Island and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, Far Rockaway and Broad Channel in Queens, South Beach, Midland Beach, and other low-lying areas on Staten Island, and Battery Park City in Manhattan."
According to the Times, when "asked if those who refused to evacuate might be subject to arrest," Bloomberg replied, presumably as thunder crashed overhead, "The worst case? They could die."
(Stay tuned for constant updates.)
Irene: New York City, Mid-Atlantic Put on High Alert [Accuweather]
Bloomberg Updates City on Hurricane Plans [City Room/NYT]
Update: Want to know whether you're in the evacuation zone? As you can see, the orange area in the map below is Zone A, which means it could experience flooding in any hurricane, while the yellow area is Zone B, which may experience flooding in a Category 2 hurricane. You don't need to worry about Zone C.
You can also check if you're in an evacuation zone by typing in your address here.
Update II: According to Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Undergound, your Monday commute may be in jeopardy:
NOAA's SLOSH model predicts that a mid-strength Category 2 hurricane with 100-mph winds could drive a 15 - 20 foot storm surge to Manhattan, Queens, Kings, and up the Hudson River. JFK airport could be swamped, southern Manhattan would flood north to Canal Street, and a surge traveling westwards down Long Island Sound might breach the sea walls that protect La Guardia Airport. Many of the power plants that supply the city with electricity might be knocked out, or their docks to supply them with fuel destroyed. The more likely case of a Category 1 hurricane hitting at high tide would still be plenty dangerous, with waters reaching 8 - 12 feet above ground level in Lower Manhattan. Given the spread in the models, I predict a 20% chance that New York City will experience a storm surge in excess of 8 feet that will over-top the flood walls in Manhattan and flood the subway system. This would most likely occur near 8 pm Sunday night, when high tide will occur and Irene should be near its point of closest approach. Such a storm surge could occur even if Irene weakens to a tropical storm on its closest approach to New York City.
Update III: Florida is already mocking us for worrying about the hurricane. As if Florida wouldn't crawl into the fetal position if it ever got a foot of snow.
Update IV: The city's Office of Emergency Management strongly suggests that those in the evacuation zones prepare a "Go Bag." The aptly named "Go Bag" is a "bag" full of stuff you should take with you if you have to "go." Such items may include important documents, keys, credit cards and cash, bottled water and snacks, a flashlight, a radio, medications, a first aid kid, and a map. However, the contents of Go Bag should be personalized based your individual needs. Basically, anything you can't do without for a few days, or stand to lose in a flood, should be included. These things may include alcohol, drugs, pornography, and iPads.
Update V: The Yankees and Orioles are supposed to play five games between Friday and Monday. That's definitely not happening.
Update VI: New Jersey governor Chris Christie warned today that, "from a flooding perspective," Irene "could be a hundred-year event," and suggested to anyone living on barrier islands to start leaving ASAP.
Update VII: Welcome to New York, NYU freshmen.
Update VIII: Here's what Irene looks like from the International Space Station. "It's just hard to believe that it's that big," one person says, perfectly setting up a "that's what she said" joke.
Update IX: BREAKING: Sarah Jessica Parker is preparing for the storm.
Update X: Following New Jersey governor Chris Christie, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has now declared a state of emergency, which "enables New York to use state resources to assist local governments more effectively and quickly, allows the state to activate the national "Emergency Management Assistance Compact" to bring in resources from out of the state, and enables New York to access key federal resources earlier in anticipation of an emergency," according to a press release.
Update XI: The MTA says it may be forced to enact a "partial or full shut down of our services to ensure the safety of our customers and employees."