Long Islanders will start to feel the impact of Hurricane Irene Saturday night as the storm continues its path toward the area.
Tropical storm conditions are expected with hurricane conditions possible, bringing heavy rainfall and strong winds that may gust up to 55 mph.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for Long Island.
As of 8 a.m. Hurricane Irene weakened slightly to a Category 1 storm, with maximum sustained winds up to 85 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The eye of Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout, NC, around 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
Meteorologist expect Irene to weaken slightly as she crosses eastern North Carolina, but the storm is forecasted to remain a hurricane as it approaches Long Island.
Outer bands from Irene will start to arrive Saturday afternoon, but the brunt of the storm will hit Long Island late Saturday night into Sunday afternoon, bringing damaging winds, torrential rain that could amount to 6 to 12 inches, likely causing significant coastal flooding and beach erosion.
Meteorologists warn that based on recent heavy rains, moderate to major river flooding is likely along with significant and widespread urban and poor drainage flooding.
Major coastal flooding could occur if the greatest surge coincides with the times of high tides Sunday morning and/or Sunday evening.
Irene is a large storm, with hurricane force winds that extend outward up to 90 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds that extend 260 miles.
With the likelihood that Long Island will experience direct impact with Hurricane Irene, officials announced mandatory evacuations for residents in low lying areas. Thousands of residents in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties were expected to begin evacuating by 8 a.m. Saturday.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano ordered mandatory evacuations by 5 p.m. Saturday of residents living south of Sunrise Highway west of Rockville Center and south of Merrick Road east of Baldwin. Same goes for those living on the North Shore that reside in low lying areas and storm surge zones.
Meanwhile, Suffolk County officials urged residents to prepare for mandatory evacuations Saturday, including approximately 70,000 residents in the Town of Brookhaven and another 15,000 Town of Islip residents living in flood zones.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko also ordered mandatory evacuations for some North Shore residents.
Town of Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone declared an emergency Friday night and ordered a mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas south of Montauk Highway beginning Saturday at 8 a.m. The evacuation also affects those on barrier beaches.
On the East End, mandatory evacuations are underway in town of Southampton, Southold and Riverhead flood zones while a voluntary evauation order is in effect for low-lying areas in Easthampton and Shelter Island townships.
Shelters across Long Island were ordered to open Saturday morning, officials said.
Officials ordered the evacuation of the 17 communities on Fire Island Friday. Ferry service is likely to end at 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, or sooner depending on storm conditions, officials said.
Long Island Rail Road officials released a schedule of the last trains that will run Saturday before service is suspended at noon, along with all MTA mass transit.
The Port Authority announced it will close JFK and LaGuardia to all arriving passenger international and domestic flights beginning at noon Saturday. Many departures also were canceled.
The last hurricane to hit Long Island was Gloria in 1985. In 1991 Hurricane Bob brushed past Montauk but did not make direct landfall. The last time New York City had a hurricane warning was in 1985, ahead of Gloria.
The last time an eye of a storm passed over New York City itself was during a Category 1 hurricane in 1893. A speck of land off Long Island, called Hog Island, was completely washed away.