Most of Howard Beach is now in the first priority evacuation area for hurricanes, according to new city maps that identify zones to be evacuated in the event of another major storm. The maps, which increased the number of zones from three to six, add another 600,000 people citywide into areas that could be evacuated in case of another hurricane, including tens of thousands in Queens neighborhoods originally not in the zones like Elmhurst, Woodhaven and Jamaica.
According to the city, just under three million people — more than a third of the city’s total population on — lives in an evacuation zone.
“The new zones incorporate the best available data and will help the city to more effectively communicate to those most at risk,” Cas Holloway IV, the deputy mayor for operations, said in a statement last month.
Previously, there were three zones, A, B and C. Before Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of neighborhoods in Zone A, which in Queens included most of the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach and the Hunters Point section of Long Island City.
But Howard Beach, which suffered a devastating flood from Sandy’s storm surge, was not evacuated because it was part of Zone B, as were other areas that flooded including Rosedale and interior sections of Long Island City around Vernon Boulevard.
After the storm, many in Howard Beach wondered why they hadn’t been evacuated. According to the city’s old guidelines, Zone B was to only be evacuated in the event of a hurricane classified as a category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, which measures the strength of a hurricane in categories 1 through 5, by windspeed. Sandy was a Category 1, but had the barometric pressure and storm surge common in a strong Category 2 or weak Category 3.
The new evacuation maps give the city more flexibility. There are now six zones, numbered 1 through 6 in order to avoid confusion with FEMA flood maps, which use letters.
Most of Howard Beach, including all of Hamilton Beach, Old Howard Beach south of 157th Avenue, the Rockwood Park section south of 159th Avenue and the southwest corner of Lindenwood will be moved into Zone 1, with Broad Channel and the Rockaways, Hunters Point South and Idlewild and Brookville parks in Rosedale also in Zone 1.
All of the rest of the Howard Beach south of the Belt Parkway and western parts of Lindenwood will be in Zone 2. The rest of Lindenwood will be in Zone 3.
Zone 2 will include most of Hunters Point, southern sections of Rosedale, Willets Point and Hallets Cove in Astoria. Sections of Brookville, Springfield Gardens and Rosedale south of the Belt Parkway are placed in Zone 3. The other zones 4 through 6, are lower priority. In southern Queens, Zone 6 goes as far inland as Woodhaven and Downtown Jamaica. Other somewhat low-lying parts of the borough and areas higher up, but still close to the shore, like Elmhurst, Corona, Maspeth, East Elmhurst and Bay Terrace — including the Queens Center mall and LeFrak City are also in zones 4 through 6. Previously, they were not in any evacuation zone.
Some of the designated evacuee reception centers, such as Newcomers High School in Long Island City, John Adams High School in Ozone Park and York College, are right on the edge of Zone 6.
Evacuations will no longer be based on the category of a hurricane, but rather on forecasted storm surge.
Though Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, due to its size, previous strength and combination with another system, its storm surge was the size typical of a much larger hurricane. That caused the storm surge to submerge parts of the city identified as Zone B — including Howard Beach — and a few sections in Manhattan and Brooklyn that were classified as Zone C.
Many of those sections were moved into zones 1, 2 and 3 under the new map.