Hurricane Irene: Lower Manhattan may lose power before Irene arrives, mayor says
Even before Hurricane Irene arrives, Lower Manhattan and other low-lying areas of the city may lose power. In other words, not only will it be extraordinarily stormy in the big city over Saturday night, it could be extra dark.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that utility company Con Edison might shutdown critical facilities in Lower Manhattan as the storm approaches to prevent residents from getting trapped in elevators and water damage to power lines and other equipment.
“You can plan for a possibility of no power downtown,” Bloomberg said during a morning news conference in Coney Island where it was already drizzling.
The mayor again sternly advised New Yorkers who live in low-lying neighborhoods of the five boroughs to get moving. City officials issued an unprecedented order to more than 370,000 residents to evacuate these areas by 5 p.m.; the massive public transportation system is shutting down at noon.
“This is not a joke and let’s hope that it isn’t as bad as we’re preparing for. But your life could be in danger … You could be in [a] building that doesn’t have electricity or doesn’t have elevator service.”
He later added, "Staying behind is dangerous, staying behind is foolish and it's against the law."
Surging tides and high winds could bring salt water from the East River streaming through the streets of Lower Manhattan and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, according to a Alfonzo Quiroz, a spokesman for Con Edison.
A decision would be made about turning off power as the storm moved in, he said.
“During an intense storm like this we have networks that serve tens of thousands of customers and they all may need to be deenergized due to flooding," Quiroz said. "Taking actions like this allows us to recover quicker. There’s salt in the water and that corrodes some of our wires and makes the damage much more intense. Once the water recedes, we’re able to let the equipment dry and safely reenergize.”
-- Geraldine Baum
Photo: New Yorkers swept through grocery stores across the city stocking up on basics. The beverage shelf of a supermarket in Brooklyn sits empty by late Friday night. Credit: Michael Heiman / Getty Images