New York City preps for first hurricane in decades

Long Island residents in the path of Hurricane Irene prepared for wind, rain and flooding as the storm was poised to bear down on an already saturated New York state.

Near the island's eastern tip, 86-year-old Ed Hayward took his daily one-mile stroll in East Marion under blue skies and said his family's only concern is the potential for property damage.

"We're not going to leave. Everyone is just sitting tight," he said.

In Long Beach, closer to New York City, some people were securing their windows with duct-tape and carrying canned goods home along the boardwalk. But joggers and bicyclists were out enjoying that last bit of sun before the storm's anticipated arrival Sunday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that public transportation in New York City will shut down around noon on Saturday in advance of the storm. The shutdown includes the Long Island Rail Road, which provides service from several points in Long Island to New York City.

The National Weather Service predicted the storm's eye will pass over central Long Island in Suffolk County.

As of midday Friday, the hurricane warning area covered a large chunk of the East Coast from North Carolina to Sandy Hook, N.J., south of New York City. A hurricane watch extended farther north and included Long Island and Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Cuomo declared a state of emergency and directed state agencies to prepare to help, and officials across the region were warning residents to gather basic supplies.

Cuomo on Friday said major bridges in the New York City area and the state Thruway will close if Hurricane Irene brings winds over 60 mph. The closures would include the George Washington and other major bridges into Manhattan and through the lower Hudson Valley. National Guard units will deploy up to 900 personnel and more than 100 vehicles to help civilian authorities. Troops have begun to reporting.

The Long Island Power Authority plans to have 2,500 line workers and tree cutting personnel available through the weekend.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and other elected officials asked for voluntary evacuations of beach communities on western Fire Island, a popular summer destination. They're monitoring the storm to determine whether to call for a mandatory evacuation Friday.

New York's Emergency Management Office urged residents to secure lawn furniture, hanging plants and other items that would become projectiles in hurricane-force conditions. Many New Yorkers should be prepared for 24 to 72 hours in which they may not have outside help, spokesman Dennis Michalski said.

Thousands of New York Army National Guard soldiers could be deployed quickly this weekend if needed, said spokesman Lt. Col. Rich Goldenberg. The state's Army and Air National Guard units have high-axle vehicles that can navigate flooded streets, as well as cargo planes and helicopters.

On Long Island, the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard in Westhampton Beach is moving its six Blackhawks and four C-130 aircraft used for search-and-rescue missions out of the storm's path, planning to make them available in the aftermath.

Paula Lombardi of Worcester, Mass., arrived by ferry Friday at Long Island's Orient Point to visit with her daughter and 5-year-old granddaughter in Sag Harbor.

Lombardi said she "likes things planned and safe," and would do anything for her children.

"If anything happens, it happens to all of us," she said.