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      Cuomo orders troops, equipment downstate for Irene

      More than 900 National Guard soldiers and more than 100 vehicles will head to the Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island Saturday in response to Hurricane Irene.

      If required, more than 12,000 soldiers and airmen and more than 680 vehicles could become involved in the already massive preparation effort.

      New York's National Guard troops have available to them 15 Blackhawk helicopters, four Chinook helicopters, a huge C-130 cargo plane and six rescue helicopters.

      Gov. Andrew Cuomo is directing 230 soldiers with vehicles and satellite communications to Long Island by Saturday evening.

      Troops from as far away as Auburn will be sent to locations throughout the downstate area.

      Cuomo also says major bridges and the state Thruway will close if Hurricane Irene brings winds over 60 mph.

      Cuomo lists more than a half-dozen bridges in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley that would close to all traffic with sustained winds at that speed, including the George Washington and Tappan Zee that carry traffic to and from the city.

      The Thruway Authority says road closures could include the highway between New York City and Albany.

      National Guard units will deploy up to 900 personnel and more than 100 vehicles to help civilian authorities. Troops have begun to reporting.

      A hurricane watch is in effect for New York City and Long Island for Sunday, with storm conditions possible Saturday night.

      State officials say the best thing pet owners can do for pets stressed by Hurricane Irene is to keep them close.

      The New York State Office of Emergency Management is providing several tips to keep pets safe in the coming days as the hurricane hits the Eastern Seaboard.

      First, keep your pets with you.

      If you have to leave pets for shelter, assume you will be gone at least a week and provide enough food and water.

      Consider crating pets when you are with them to make them feel more comfortable, but don't leave them in crates if you leave.

      The state also urges pet owners to consider using pet-friendly hotels and kennels to provide a safe haven.