Hurricane Irene in the Caribbean Sea, moving toward the eastern...

Hurricane Irene in the Caribbean Sea, moving toward the eastern seaboard of the U.S. Credit: Hurricane Irene in the Caribbean Sea moving toward the eastern seaboard of the U.S. (Getty Images)

UPDATE Friday, August 26 at 1:45 p.m.: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has anounced that all MTA services are scheduled to shut down at noon Saturday.

A monstrous hurricane that was on target Thursday night to make a rare, direct strike on New York City prompted city officials to prepare for the worst, eyeing a possible total shutdown of mass transit and bridges and girding for the evacuation of possibly 250,000 residents.

"What we have to do is assume the worst then prepare for it, but hope for the best," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo placed New York under a state of emergency, saying he's activated "levels of state government to prepare for any situation that may be caused by Hurricane Irene."

The hurricane was forecast to make landfall in eastern Queens about 2 p.m. Sunday as a Category 1, bringing winds of up to 90 miles per hour and dumping up to 12 inches of rain. The slow-moving storm will lash the city starting early Sunday. If it strikes NYC directly, it would be the first hurricane to do so since 1893.

"We're expecting very, very strong winds for the city, and rain, too — lots of it," said Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. "Of course, its track can change, and there's a chance it could go further in either direction, but there's really no way New York won't be it.”

City Hall and the MTA both said that if the track holds, bus and subway service will be suspended as early as Saturday afternoon, and it likely won’t be restored in time for Monday morning.

The city will decide by 8 a.m. Saturday whether to evacuate people in the lowest-lying areas, including Manhattan Beach, Coney Island and Battery Park City.

The city already put into effect a mandatory evacuation of the city's hospitals, nursing homes and similar buildings that are in those low-lying areas.

All outdoor events scheduled for Sunday are canceled, and the mayor urged people in low-lying areas to already begin evacuating just in case, as that would alleviate traffic if an evacuation becomes mandatory. 

Follow Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera

Latest video