New York's Long Island Urges Voluntary Evacuations

fromWSHU

As Hurricane Irene makes it way up the East Coast, it is expected to be felt on New York's Long Island. The area is home to three million people, and there aren't many bridges to get them to the mainland. The Nassau County executive says he'll make a decision about mandatory evacuations soon.

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DAVID GREENE, host:

Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the East Coast of the United States. The storm is expected to make landfall in North Carolina tomorrow and then make its way up the Eastern Seaboard.

A hurricane warning has been extended from North Carolina's coastline to as far north as Sandy Hook, New Jersey, meaning the hurricane conditions are expected to affect those areas within the next 36 hours.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said an evacuation decision would be made soon for residents in areas such as Coney Island, Battery Park City and Staten Island.

Voluntary evacuation orders have already been issued to certain areas of Long Island. Hurricane Gloria killed 11 people there in 1985. Long Island is home to three million people and it has only a handful of bridges to the mainland. One of the places expected to really feel the wrath of Irene is Long Beach, and Charles Lane of member station WSHU visited there yesterday.

CHARLES LANE: Long Beach is a wispy barrier island south of Long Island. There's about 40,000 people here densely packed in cottages and beachfront high rises stretching along the Atlantic Ocean. There's only three roads off Long Beach and officials are asking residents to be ready to leave on short notice.

(Soundbite of ocean waves)

Mr. DAN QUINN: If it comes down that you're suppose to go, then I'm going to go. I'm not going to be stupid about it. It's not that big a deal.

LANE: Dan Quinn lives in a condo off the boardwalk. He has seen many hurricanes here, and says some people will stay no matter what.

Mr. QUINN: It's a fairly large surfing community and I think they're looking forward to big waves. I mean all those guys will stick around.

LANE: And as if on cue, Matthew Fastuca rounds the corner riding a bike, one-handed, while carrying a surfboard.

Mr. MATTHEW FASTUCA (Surfer): The best time is now with the hurricanes, without a doubt - big, really steep, really hollow, and really fast and really fun.

LANE: Fastuca has no plans to leave.

Mr. FASTUCA: Because it's - I've been through like hurricanes before. And I don't know, I'm not too worried about it, and the waves are going to be good.

LANE: Long Island has dozens of other barrier islands. Altogether there's about 200,000 people in places that may need to be evacuated. On some islands there are no roads, only ferries.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano says he'll make a decision about mandatory evacuation later today or Saturday. He asks people to not just think of themselves, but also think of the rescue workers having to save people from the storm.

Mr. ED MANGANO (Executive, Nassau County): The more people heed our warnings and help themselves following our plans, the easier it will be to evacuate those that don't have the ability to evacuate themselves - the elderly, the sick.

(Soundbite of motorboats)

LANE: Down the beach at Point Lookout, boat owners are weighing other decisions; either tie their boats down or take them out of the water altogether ahead of Sunday's storm.

Bruce Larson is a commercial fisherman. He's opted to pull his boat out because, of all things, the moon.

Mr. BRUCE LARSON (Commercial Fishermen): Thing is, Sunday night happens to be a new moon. So with the full moon and the new moon, you tend to get a little elevated tides.

LANE: Higher seas, plus the expected storm surge, plus the wind - all of this has Larson warily eyeing the docks and bulkheads.

Mr. LARSON: That's really it. I'm not worried about the rains and stuff sinking my boat. I'm worried about the boat beaten up on the poles and pilings, and all the stuff that could break loose and that nonsense. You know what I mean?

LANE: Taking his boat out of the water gives Larson one less thing to worry about.

Mr. LARSON: I'd rather just worry about my house. You know?

LANE: Lots of other people on Long Island are feeling the same way.

For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane on Long Island.

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