Irene could send stuff on New York streets flying
Suddenly, all the flotsam and jetsam on the curbs of New York's streets that are usually ignored seemed like torpedoes in waiting.
Unlike with an earthquake — which strikes without warning and is over in minutes — Hurricane Irene has brought two days of fraught warnings and left plenty of room for imaginations to run wild.
Plastic news racks, metal garbage cans, small construction bins, wooden police barricades, metal signs shaped like pizzas that all dot the streets looked like projectiles ready to hurtle -- courtesy of Irene -- through windshields and the fronts of delis.
City sanitation workers have been busy turning over 25,000 litter baskets and shoving them against buildings. "Please don’t turn them back upright or upside down yourself for your safety," read the posting from @NYCmayorsoffice.
But would they actually stay put?
The city is expecting winds up to 60 mph when the storm hits Saturday night.
City officials, including the mayor, have been imploring New Yorkers to secure anything they see that they think could go flying.
Standing in front of an East Village tenement Saturday morning, James, who declined to give his last name, told a Times reporter he was worried about what the winds would fling through the front of his basement apartment. "That's why I siliconed the doors," he said, adding with a gesture toward the stairwell in front of his door, "Down there things could really go flying."
In Union Square, Debbie Motel, 54, inspected a green metal trash can that was secured to a lamppost with nothing more than a thin piece of rope and said wryly: "It might have been good if they used some stronger wiring."
On Twitter, Lindsay Cliett @cliettriot wrote: "NYC, remember to bring in your flower pots, patio chairs, garbage cans etc.. I don't want them flying into my window 12 hrs from now."
Although Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the city's building department had ordered all construction sites secured, Jillian Walsh, who lives not far from the 9/11 ground zero, was worried about a tall crane that loomed above her Saturday.
Walsh, a mother of two young daughters, had just returned home after being evacuated from Long Beach Island on the Jersey shore.
"I'm worried about those cranes," she said, pointing to a smaller one that sat on a roof on one of the partly constructed buildings at ground zero. "How do they know that won't come right off?"
But then she thought about it and added, "Anyone who's standing out here when the storm is really hitting probably has some other issues."
-- Geraldine Baum and Steve Zeitchik in New York CIty
Photo: Sandbags line drains along 8th Avenue in New York in preparation for Hurricane Irene on Saturday in New York. Credit: Chelsea Matiash / Associated Press