By Kenneth Lovett AND Tina Moore / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Hurricane Sandy leveled homes in Cuba and Jamaica this week and it has been blamed for more than 20 deaths. The storm is marching north towards the U.S., and could slam New York with lashing rain, powerful winds and even snow.
In the face of a potentially devastating storm, Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency Friday and city officials considered evacuating as many as 375,000 New Yorkers.
The MTA was also considering a total shut down of buses and subways if the worst predictions about Hurricane Sandy come true.
The deadly tempest, which killed at least 41 people in the Caribbean, according to The Associated Press, is expected to make landfall late Monday night near Delaware.
Mayor Bloomberg said he’d make a decision about evacuations in low-lying areas in all five boroughs as soon as Saturday.
“We are taking all the steps that we need to take,” Bloomberg said during a hastily called afternoon press conference on Friday.
Hurricane Sandy blasted across eastern Cuba on Thursday as a potent Category 2 storm and headed for the Bahamas en route to the East Coast, forecasters predict.
Residents watch firefighters fight a blaze in a private home in Kingston October 26, 2012. The fire, which destroyed the home, was started by a faulty generator used to provide electricity in the blackout caused by the passing of Hurricane Sandy, firefighters said.
“But the storm is moving at a rate that we’re still not going to have a good sense of when and where it’s going to hit land.”
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said officials would begin the second shutdown of all buses and subways in its history if winds reach 39 mph.
“Our first priority is always safety, and the MTA is taking no chances with the safety of our customers, our employees and our equipment,” Lhota said in a statement. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Whatever happens, we’ll be ready.”
Parts of the subway that are below sea level are particularly susceptible to flooding.
The MTA halted the subways for the first time in its history during Hurricane Irene last year.
People walk on a street littered with debris after Hurricane Sandy hit Santiago de Cuba October 26, 2012.
Carl Juste/The Miami Herald via AP
Locals walk across the flooded streets of La Plaine, Haiti after Hurricane Sandy caused flooding and claimed more than 20 lives across the Caribbean.
Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm before reaching the city but dire predictions in the days before it arrived triggered mandatory evacuations of lower Manhattan and other coastal neighborhoods.
With some forecasts predicting that Sandy could deliver an even more powerful punch, the city is again considering those extreme measures.
“The thing that we worry about the most is that people decide not to listen to the order to evacuate and then later on find themselves in harm’s way and then our police and fire departments have to put their lives on the line,” Bloomberg said.
City officials ordered construction crews to halt work as of Saturday evening and warned residents to prepare “go-bags” equipped with water and First Aid kits.
Officials were also deciding whether to cancel school on Monday.
Bryan Smith for New York Daily News
Mayor Michael Bloomberg discusses the city’s preparations ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s possible arrival early next week at City Hall on Friday.
Another major concern is “prolonged power outages,” Bloomberg said, and the city is working closely with ConEd.
“There are probably 20 different forecasts tracts for this storm and any one of them could be right,” Bloomberg said.
City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city was asking six hospitals and 41 chronic care facilities, including nursing homes, in the low-lying areas to move patients who could be easily relocated.
Hurricane Sandy path as shown by NOAA map.
The city could decide to evacuate the facilities using city buses as it did during Irene.
Cuomo declared a state of emergency for all 62 counties and said at a Long Island event that the state was taking “every precaution possible.”
A state of emergency gives the state more flexibility to help cities and counties. Cuomo also put the National Guard on alert, which makes Guard personnel and equipment available to help.
Julia Xanthos/New York Daily News
Workers from the MTA install plywood over subway grating to prevent flooding expected from Hurricane Sandy near the Staten Island Ferry in lower Manhattan on Friday.
He also said he will call up repair crews and reach out to other states that may have crews available.
The state is also asking for a pre-disaster declaration that would get New York federal aid and assistance, he said.
Carl Juste/The Miami Herald via AP
Residents of Leogane, Haiti find higher ground as the water level continues to rise Friday, Oct. 26, 2012.
Jean Marie Brennan walks along the jetty at Lighthouse Point Park as Hurricane Sandy passes offshore in Ponce Inlet, Florida on Friday.
“There’s no need to panic,” he said. “We have a lot of time and we’re prepared for any eventuality, but we’d rather err on the side of caution.”
Cuomo canceled plans to campaign in Florida for President Obama so he could stay in New York. He also scrapped a homeland security conference scheduled for Monday in Albany so the 1,000 first responders who planned to attend could prepare for the storm in their home counties.
A host of other events were canceled as the storm loomed, including an exam for specialized high schools admissions scheduled for Sunday.With News Wire Services
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