Gov. Cuomo announced a state of emergency Friday afternoon in preparation for the expected landfall of Hurricane Sandy early this week.
“As we prepare for the possibility of Hurricane Sandy hitting New York State, I am activating all levels of state government to prepare for any potential impacts,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are working with federal and local partners to follow storm developments and organize a coordinated response plan. With unpredictable weather conditions, we are taking the greatest precautions – especially after our experience from last year’s storms. I urge New Yorkers to plan for hurricane conditions and follow news reports to stay updated on the storm’s progress.”
The move comes as city officials and utility companies begin preparations for the storm, which meteorologists are warning could be worse than Hurricane Irene last August. Sandy, a category 1 hurricane, is churning off the Florida coastline as of Friday afternoon, heading to the north. It is expected to make a abrupt left turn and make landfall somewhere between Cape Henlopen, Delaware and Cape Cod on Monday night or Tuesday morning. The storm is expected to combine with an upper-level low pressure system coming from the west and create what one meteorologist described as an "unprecedented and bizarre storm."
Cuomo has ordered the state's Emergency Operations Center in Albany to operate 24 hours a day before and during the storm. At the Governor's direction, state agencies and local governments are planning cooperative response efforts. Cuomo and his administration have been in contact with local officials to coordinate preparation. The state government is communicating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service to discuss the potential tracks of the storm.
Cuomo has also asked President Obama for a pre-landfall disaster declaration, which would allow for state access to federal funds and FEMA resources to prepare.
Meanwhile at the city level, Mayor Bloomberg said Friday that he has been in contact with Cuomo as well as the MTA and Con Edison ahead of the storm and suggested residents begin preparing themselves.
"We don't know for certain yet if any or all of that will happen, but it is our obligation to be prepared and to make preparations now," Bloomberg said.
"On an individual level, we should all remain alert to weather forecasts for the next several days. You can also go the city's web site, NYC.gov, or call 311 for regular forecast updates and other vital information about this storm," Bloomberg continued. "Or you can listen to your local radio station or watch your local television station, or one of the weather services on the Internet."
Bloomberg said he is not yet ordering evacuations in low-lying areas like the Rockaways, Broad Channel and Hunters Point. He also said there has been no call on shutting down subway and bus service, but noted that the MTA would shut down service when winds exceed 39 mph, which they are expected to do. The mayor also said no decision had been made yet as of Friday on whether or not to close city schools on Monday.
Con Edison, meanwhile, said it was calling on crews to prepare for high winds, heavy rains and flooding that could "wallop electric, gas and stream systems" when the storm moves into the area. The utility also suggested people stay away from downed power lines during the storm and report downed wires to Con Edison, turn off all electric appliances if the power goes out to prevent circuits from overloading on restoration, get flashlights and batteries and make sure all battery-powered radios are working.
The storm also has humanitarian organizations prepping for the aftermath. AmeriCares said Friday it was preparing to respond to the northeast during and after the storm.
“We have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario where Hurricane Sandy hits a densely populated area, causing massive flooding, damage to homes and businesses and widespread power outages,” said Garrett Ingoglia, AmeriCares' vice president of emergency response. “All of the weather reports indicate this is going be a very serious storm, and we are ready to help in any way we can.”