Hurricane Sandy barreled through the Bahamas on Thursday as forecasts for our area indicate a hybrid storm could pummel the tri-state with gale-force winds, heavy rain, flooding and maybe snow Sunday into Tuesday.
The hurricane has caused 21 deaths so far in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.
Mayor Bloomberg cautioned against panic but said Thursday that city agencies have been readying emergency plans and said New Yorkers in low-lying areas might have to evacuate. The city's emergency management situation room has already been activated.
"We're going to make sure we're prepared," he said.
The city's primary evacuation zone includes Battery Park City, Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway and Midland Beach and South Beach in Staten Island. See the zone in orange on this map.
In August 2011, Bloomberg ordered evacuations in low-lying areas of the city as Hurricane Irene approached. The entire subway system was also shut down.
At this point, forecasts are showing that Sandy could become an unusual mix of a hurricane and winter storm, with the worst focused around New York City and New Jersey starting Sunday. Government forecasters say it's so massive that the effects will be felt along the coast from Florida to Maine and inland to Ohio.
One of the more messy aspects of the expected storm is that it just won't leave. The worst of it should peak early Tuesday, but it will stretch into midweek, forecasters say. Weather may start clearing in the mid-Atlantic the day after Halloween and Nov. 2 in the Northeast.
It is likely to hit during a full moon when tides are near their highest, increasing coastal flooding potential, NOAA forecasts warn. And with some trees still leafy and the potential for snow, power outages could last to Election Day, some meteorologists fear.
Utilities in the Northeast have begun preparing for the storm; PSE&G in New Jersey is readying its workers to respond, and is arranging for extra contractors, like tree crews, to assist with cleanup.
Hurricane Sandy was expected to churn through the central and northwest Bahamas late Thursday and early Friday. It also might bring tropical storm conditions along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.