Chicago area residents in NYC brace for Irene

August 28, 2011 7:32:32 AM PDT
New York City was preparing for Hurricane Irene Saturday evening as the first rain from the storm began to hit the city.

There has not been a hurricane warning in New York City since 1985.

In preparation for the storm, mass transit was brought to a stop Saturday. This is the first time in New York City's history that the subways have been shut down by a natural disaster. According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the five area airports have also been shut down.

"This is a storm where if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be fatal," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Torrie Spanos of Sauk Village drove to New York on Friday to bring her daughter Brittany to college. After a flat tire on the way and no sleep, she's ready for her next challenge -- Hurricane Irene.

"We get all these obstacles but we can overcome them," Spanos said. "We're going to buy a little bit of food, get some beverages, hunker down in a very nice hotel and just watch movies and relax and hope the power doesn't go out," Spanos said.

Matteson resident Joseph Harding survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He planned to celebrate his 25th birthday with his first trip to New York City, but instead of celebrating, he'll be taking cover during another hurricane.

"We are staying indoors. Hopefully these buildings are constructed they can withstand winds and rain. We have confidence in the buildings," Harding said.

Chicagoan Paul Bonehill also came to New York City to celebrate his birthday. Now, he and his friend are riding out the storm from their hotel.

"It's scary being on the 31st floor," Bonehill said. "We're packed, we're getting ready. Just in case we have to evacuate, we're looking for shelter."

There's concern that the storm surge from Hurricane Irene could be 11 to 15 feet high. If that happens, parts of the subway system could flood within 40 minutes.

With mass transit shut down, red tape blocks subway entrances and many are taking cover.

"New Yorkers they seem to be very resilient, but we're from Chicago, we're used to this kind of weather, you know, it happens," Harding said.

Evacuations orders in the city cover 23 million people, so on Saturday the streets were a relative ghost town. Bloomberg is encouraging people to take advantage of the city's shelters, which can accomodate up to 70,000 people who may be displaced by the storm.

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