NEW YORK – In an unprecedented move Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday issued evacuation orders for 300,000 people living in low-lying areas of this city ahead of the expected arrival of Hurricane Irene on Sunday.

In a joint press conference with the heads of the local police and fire departments, Bloomberg said residents of coastal neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens must move inland to avoid risk of flooding by the category 2 storm heading for the city from the south.

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“We’ve never done a mandatory evacuation before. And we wouldn’t be doing it now if we didn’t think this storm had the potential to be very serious,” said the mayor. “The best outcome would be if the storm veers off to the east and doesn’t hit us, or doesn’t hit us hard. But we can’t depend on Mother Nature being so kind. We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Bloomberg also announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority which runs the Big Apple’s extensive subway and train system will suspend its services entirely from Saturday noon until the storm passes.

It will be the first time that the MTA, which works 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year, will cease operating in its entirety because of weather conditions.

Hurricane-force storms reaching New York City from the Caribbean are relatively rare but not unheard of. In 1944 a category 3 hurricane made landfall in Long Island causing about 300 fatalities.

As news of the planned evacuations made headlines, lines began to form outside supermarkets throughout the city with consumers stocking up on water bottles and emergency supplies..

Meanwhile, Jewish communities at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, which lies almost directly on the projected path of Irene, were bracing for its arrival.


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