Mayor Bloomberg had one message for the city Monday ahead of Hurricane Sandy: Get out if you can, and stay inside if you can’t.
Alongside Sen. Chuck Schumer and Speaker Christine Quinn, Bloomberg issued a dire warning for the city at the Brooklyn headquarters of the Office of Emergency Management, pleading with everyone in the Zone A evacuation zones to leave, and asking everyone else to prepare for the worst of the storm expected around 8 p.m. Monday.
“If you are still in Zone A and can find a way to leave, leave immediately,” Bloomberg said. “Conditions are deteriorating very rapidly, and the window for you getting out safely is closing,” he said, adding that first responders will still service people with emergencies in evacuated areas.
“Tomorrow morning we expect to be very wet,” Bloomberg said. He added that there are no plans to evacuate Zones B and C.
Bloomberg said all public schools will be closed Tuesday because there was “no chance” that mass transit – which was shut down Sunday night – would be running in time. It is unclear when mass transit would be up and running again. City government remained open Monday, and 311/911 calls set a record Sunday night.
Flooding in the city had already begun Monday morning, with the FDR already having as much flooding as it did during last year’s tropical storm Irene, Bloomberg said. The highway was closed in both directions from East 61st Street to East 116th Street. Both the Holland and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels were also set to close at 2 p.m. Monday, Bloomberg said.
“The worst of the flooding is coming tonight,” Bloomberg said.
About 3,000 evacuated city residents were in 76 emergency shelters Monday (as well as 73 pets), served by about 3,100 workers, Bloomberg said. Overnight, 13 home-bound elderly were transported from residences, and the city had plans to evacuate homeless people in Zone A to care centers. Manhattan Veterans Affairs Hospital and New York Downtown Hospital have been fully evacuated.
The worst of the storm is expected to hit around 8 p.m. Monday, give or take about two hours, Bloomberg said. Winds were already peaking Monday afternoon at sustained speeds of around 40-50 mph, with gusts of up to 70 mph.
“This is a massive storm,” Bloomberg said. “Hurricane force winds extend some 175 miles in every direction of the center,” he said, adding that the city is under a coastal flood warning through at least 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“The greatest danger posed by Sandy is the coastal swarm surge,” Bloomberg said, adding that any road that “becomes unsafe” will be closed.
Forecasters were expecting surge levels of at least six to eleven feet Monday night in the city, and at least nine to 10 feet along Coney Island and the Rockaways. Maximum surge impact is expected around 8:15, plus or minus two hours, and peak surge will hit areas along the Long Island Sound between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
FEMA emergency funds have been approved for the state, and the Army Corp was given the go-ahead to sandbag in the state wherever needed, Sen. Schumer said. Schumer also called on FEMA to skip its preliminary assessment of damage in the state and provide an expedited disaster declaration.
“There is no question we will meet the $26 million limit,” Schumer said. “To wait a week and calculate everything while everyone’s waiting and hoping doesn’t make much sense.”