It was deja vu for the city Sunday as hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers raced to batten down the hatches in anticipation for Hurricane Sandy.
Although the storm’s most-dangerous effects, which include 60 mph winds and huge surges, won’t be hitting the city until Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t take any chances, closing public schools Monday and ordering a mandatory evacuation for low-riding areas in the five boroughs.
His order came just after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered a shutdown of the city’s mass transit system starting at 7 p.m. Monday night.
“I don't want anyone going to bed tonight thinking they can spend tomorrow worrying about the night after,” Bloomberg said.
More than 375,000 residents living in the Zone A district, which includes Red Hook, Coney Island, Rockaways, and coastal Staten Island and Battery Park City neighborhoods, scrambled to leave their homes and make it to the last train out of their areas.
Gothamites not living in those areas also flocked to hardware stores, supermarkets and other shops for some last-second preparation.
The mayor encouraged evacuees to stay with friends and family in other zones, but for those who had nowhere else to go, 76 shelters were set up a various schools and buildings.
By the afternoon, many of those shelters saw long lines as families big and small came to sleep on cots. Denise Kilbrug, 31, arrived at Seward Park High School on Grand Street with her husband, 8-month-old son and their dog, Dodger, after they had to evacuate their Battery Park City apartment.
Although the family had prepared for this over the weekend, they said they only had so much time to get everything done.
“It’s inconvenient. We only packed so many bottles and canned food,” she said.
The mayor, who toured Seward Park High and met with stranded families later in the day, said the city’s agencies have been preparing for such a disaster.
He noted that New Yorkers pulled together when Irene struck in August 2011 and they would do so again, but raised caution against would be daredevils in Zone A.
Those who ignore the orders won’t be arrested but they put first responders at risk, according to Bloomberg.
“The biggest fear is that people don't leave...they call emergency workers and the emergency workers lose their lives trying to save others,” he said.