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Hurricane Irene: 4,000 evacuees pack Long Island shelter

August 27, 2011 |  2:20 pm

Janet Tomforde, left and Cindy Sidorowicz put tape on the window of a business in the Long Island community of Southampton, N.Y.
Long Island residents streamed toward shelters in densely populated Nassau County, where the edge of the storm is expected to hit Saturday night.

One of the first shelters to open, at Nassau County Community College, was already full to capacity with 4,000 people at midday Saturday.

The storm is expected to hit particularly hard on Long Island because the tide will already be high thanks to the new moon and the ground is already saturated because of heavier than normal rainfall recently.

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Edward Mangano, the county executive, said Saturday afternoon that all nursing homes near the coast had been evacuated, and 11,000 calls had come in to the county's emergency response line.

Coastal areas are supposed to be evacuated by 5 p.m., and at 6 p.m. police will start making the rounds. Once winds reach 55 mph, the county's emergency responders will stop sending crews out. 

"As the day continues, highways will begin to become crowded, roads will flood, emergency personnel will take time to respond," Mangano said.

He chastised residents who have resisted evacuating storm-surge areas.

"Listen, this is not the time to be funny or to be a knucklehead or something," Mangano said. "Right now, by all accounts a hurricane is on its way."

The shelter at Farmingdale State College was filling up at midday. Its gym was loaded with hundreds of green Army-issue cots and crates of bottled water.

Roberto Davis was one of the first to show up Saturday morning. He and his wife had woken up at 5:30 to make sure they had a spot.

"I didn't want to play games," said Davis, who lives minutes from the beach in West Bay Shore on Long Island.

Davis said that he saw people jogging and going about their normal routines as he drove to the shelter.

"It reminded me of when Noah was building the ark and people were mocking him," Davis said.

On Jones Beach, meanwhile, a New York beach getaway that is normally thronged with crowds on summer Saturdays, the parking lots were empty and just a few cars whizzed past the pounding surf.


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--Nathaniel Popper in Nassau County, N.Y.

Photo: Janet Tomforde, left, and Cindy Sidorowicz put tape on the window of a business in Southampton, N.Y., on Long Island to secure it against Hurricane Irene. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images