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As preparations for Hurricane Sandy continued in Queens, city, state and federal officials announced mandatory evacuations of some coastal areas in the borough, a citywide shutdown of the public transit system, the planned closure of public schools Monday and additional assistance from the federal government.
During a new conference Sunday afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that approximately 375,000 people who live in low-lying areas throughout the city, should evacuate their homes by 7 p.m. Sunday evening, which has passed.
This area includes parts of Hunters Point in Long Island City, Hamilton Beach in Howard Beach, Broad Channel and all of Rockaway.
“I want to reiterate that this evacuation is mandatory. It is for your own safety,” Bloomberg said.
Those in mandatory evacuation areas - or Zone A - were advised to stay with relatives or friends or go to one of 72 evacuation centers set up citywide.
“Let me stress: If you don’t evacuate, you’re not just putting your own life in danger; you are endangering the lives of first responders who may have to come in and rescue you,” Bloomberg said.
Elevators in public housing located in Zone A were to be shut down at 7 p.m.
The mayor also advised hi-rise residents to fill pots of water, for drinking and even bathing, in the event they lose water.
“Stay away from windows and close your drapes. As we said yesterday, flying objects can go right through a window,” he said.
On Sunday evening, President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in New York state. This declaration allows the federal government to help with evacuation, sheltering and protective measures in preparation for the storm, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In addition, FEMA is authorized to assist with emergency measures, according to the governor’s office.
Earlier in the day, Cuomo announced plans for the MTA to suspend service, starting at 7 p.m. Sunday for subways and 9 p.m. for buses. Long Island Rail Road and Metro North were slated to start their finals trains before 7 p.m.
The duration of the service suspension was not known, and there was no timetable for restoration, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“They [MTA officials] do have to make sure that their equipment doesn’t get damaged. Otherwise, we would not have subway trains when this is over or buses when it’s over,” Bloomberg said.
The MTA Hurricane Plan calls for the suspension of service hours before wind speeds reach 39 mph and higher, and winds of that force are predicted to pummel New York City Monday morning, according to the governor.
However, Bloomberg said officials are most worried about the flooding effects from the storm surge - estimated at between four and eight feet and scheduled to be the worst late Monday.
“The big one will be coming actually tomorrow night. Having said that, the one tonight can do plenty of damage,” the mayor said Sunday.
During the news conference, Bloomberg also announced the planned closure of city schools Monday and said a decision about whether schools would be open Tuesday would be made Monday afternoon.
Many Catholic and private schools in Queens will also be closed Monday.
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