Hurricane Irene taking aim at Long Island

This NASA/NOAA GOES Project image shows Hurricane Irene

This NASA/NOAA GOES Project image shows Hurricane Irene moving up the east coast of the US. (Aug. 26, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

Hurricane Irene steamed on a collision course for Long Island and the Eastern Seaboard Friday as more than 400,000 people in Nassau and Suffolk were ordered to evacuate and MTA officials announced they would shut down all train and bus service.

After hitting North Carolina Saturday, the slow-moving, giant storm, about the size of Texas, is expected to cross Long Island early Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane, making landfall in western Nassau County near Long Beach, bringing 6 to 12 inches of rain and sustained winds between 75 and 90 mph, forecasters said.

Before making landfall, heavy rain and wind gusts from Irene should arrive late Saturday. The center of the storm will cross the Island between 8 a.m. and noon Sunday.

In preparation for the storm Friday, MTA officials ordered the first-ever shutdown of all trains and buses, including the Long Island Rail Road.

The LIRR and New York City's subway system will stop running after noon Saturday. Suffolk County Transit will suspend all buses by 8 p.m. Saturday.

Airlines canceled hundreds of flights into and out of New York-area airports and nearly 7,000 along the East Coast. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports will close at noon Saturday to arriving flights.

At Long Island MacArthur Airport, Southwest will cease flying operations at 11:50 a.m. Saturday, airport commissioner Teresa Rizzuto said.

Almost 400,000 people on Long Island were affected by the mandatory evacuation orders, including residents of Fire Island, portions of Babylon, Brookhaven and Islip towns, and southern Nassau County.

The LIRR suspended fare collection on all westbound trains on the Far Rockaway, Long Beach and Montauk-Babylon branches to facilitate the evacuation.

All told, at least 2.6 million people along the Eastern Seaboard were affected by the evacuations, including 1 million in New Jersey, 315,000 in Maryland, 300,000 in North Carolina, 200,000 in Virginia and 100,000 in Delaware.

"This is probably the largest number of people that have been threatened by a single hurricane in the United States," said Jay Baker, a geography professor at Florida State University.

"Don't wait. Don't delay," said President Barack Obama, who decided to cut short his summer vacation by a day and return to Washington.

Irene descended upon North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane Friday after hitting the Bahamas earlier this week as a Category 3 storm.

As of 11 p.m., the hurricane was 195 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and its maximum winds had decreased to 100 mph. In addition, forecasters said that the eye of the hurricane was weakening, an indicator that Irene was losing strength.

A hurricane watch for New York was upgraded to a warning Friday at 5 p.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency pledged federal assistance to the counties that comprise New York City and Long Island. The agency was to have representatives in Nassau and Suffolk Saturday morning.

Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip and Southside Hospital in Bay Shore began evacuating patients Friday afternoon when the storm shifted to the east.

"The eastward track of the storm was raising concerns," said Terry Lynam, spokesman for North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, of which Southside is a part. "We do have backup power. The question became, do we absolutely have enough backup power? We don't want to take any chances. That was the primary factor."

About 250 patients were being transferred "with appropriate clinical staff" to other North Shore-LIJ hospitals and other facilities, Lynam said.

The Long Island Power Authority is bracing for Irene by deploying 2,150 workers, including 1,200 from outside Long Island, to help restore power and clear trees.

The Jets and Giants postponed their Saturday preseason football game until Monday, and the Mets postponed their Saturday and Sunday games against the Atlanta Braves.

With Sarah Crichton, Bill Bleyer, Alfonso A. Castillo, Keith Herbert, Ridgely Ochs, Sophia Chang, Mark Harrington and

The Associated Press


Getting ready for Hurricane Irene

FEMA recommends preparing a disaster kit that includes the following:

  • Three-day supply of nonperishable food

  • Three-day supply of water -- 1 gallon of water per person per day
  • Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Sanitation and hygiene items, such as moist towelettes and toilet paper
  • Matches and waterproof container
  • Whistle
  • Extra clothing
  • Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils, including a hand-operated can opener
  • Photocopies of credit and identification cards
  • Cash and coins
  • Special needs items, such as prescription medications, eyeglasses, contact lens solutions and hearing aid batteries
  • Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, bottles and pacifiers
  • Other items to meet your family's needs
  • Also:

    • Fill up vehicles with fuel

  • Listen to local officials
  • Know potential evacuation routes and emergency contact information
  • Pick people to call who are on and off the Island in case you become separated from your family
  • Send us your tips on major storm-related problems/damage on Long Island and/or photos from Hurricane Irene at newstips@newsday.com or click to submit them through this form.

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