As Hurricane Sandy barrels towards Long Island expecting to bring storm surges from 5-10 feet and 35-50 mile-per-hour sustained winds, local and state officials gathered in Bethpage Sunday morning to warn the public that Hurricane Sandy should not be taken lightly.
“I know we get accustomed to hearing a weather forecast and sometimes we’re dubious about the weather forecast,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “But this is nothing to play with, so take it seriously, I know we are.”
Both Nassau and Suffolk counties are currently under a state of emergency and the National Weather Center has changed their prediction from a 4-8 feet storm surge to a 5-10 feet surge here on Long Island during the peak of the storm on Monday and Tuesday.
Fire Island has already begun evacuation and a total evacuation should be complete by 2 p.m. today, said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Not only will Fire Island be evacuated but Bellone says the entire island will also be de-energized following evacuation to avoid fires and other risks that would require a personnel response not possible during the storm.
“This is a very serious storm,” said Bellone, adding that preparations for Hurricane Sandy began last Wednesday. “And we’re taking it very seriously.”
Suffolk County parks will close at 6 p.m. Sunday night and campers will be required to also evacuate at that time.
“The major issue for Suffolk County residents now in the next 24 hours is the decision to shelter in place or to go to a neighbors house or go to a relatives house that is in a non-flood zone area,” said Bellone, urging residents to plan early while the weather is still calm.
In Nassau County, Long Beach is also being evacuated with mandatory evacuations in place for nursing homes and hospitals in the flood zone.
Although residents are not required to evacuation, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano warned Long Beach residents in flood zones to get out immediately while they have a safe opportunity.
“As a rule of thumb if you were affected in hurricane Irene or near someone who was affected during hurricane Irene you should immediately begin enacting your family and friends plan,” said Mangano. “Move out to a family or friend that lives in a higher zone.”
Shelters have already been set up at Locust Valley High School, Levittown Memorial High School and Nassau Community College and will be fully operational by 1 p.m. on Sunday. Additional shelters will be announced as the storm gets closer.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” said Cuomo, stressing that Sunday morning is the time to take get prepared for Hurricane Sandy. “The storm is still coming, now is the time to take action,” he said. “Be prudent, do what’s necessary.”
Cuomo also said the MTA will suspend subway, and commuter rail service at 7 p.m. Sunday evening, including the NYC subway system and all Metro North and Long Island Rail Road service, but said if Mayor Michael Bloomberg decides to evacuate parts of Manhattan that MTA trains will be made available to him.
NYC bus service will end at 9 p.m. Sunday evening. Bridges and tunnels will be closed on a case by case basis. Airports remain open.
Cuomo also said he will keep an eye on power outages on Long Island during the storm.
“When it comes to LIPA here on Long Island, which has had issues in the past with responding to consumer complaints and getting service back up, we’re going to have LIPA response monitored by the state chairman of the Public Service Commission,” he said.
“We’re doing everything we can and now we are waiting to see what actually happens with the storm,” he continued. “We need citizens to also act prudently. It’s common sense, if you need things in the house get them this morning, get them this afternoon, but get indoors, prepare your home, make sure your lawn equipment isn’t going to go flying, it’s all common sense. And don’t take this lightly.”