It’s calm—too calm—just a slight breeze, and the thick clouds that are beginning to roll in from the south. The birds are gone. They left over a day ago. The insects aren’t chirping this evening. Just the dull hum of the neighbors’ air-conditioners and the occasional rush of cars on the city streets beyond them—the calm before the storm, and they are calling it the storm of the century.
Hurricane Irene has already smacked through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, and is now barreling into North Carolina. According to forecasters, it’s on course to run straight up the Eastern Seaboard, threatening DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, the Jersey Shore, and New York City in its way. It’s a region that is not often threatened by hurricanes of this magnitude, and this, less than a week after being rocked by a rare 5.8 earthquake at Mineral, Virginia (but felt as far away as Canada).
With Hurricane Irene, no one is taking any chances. Two million are being evacuated, including the first ever evacuations for a natural disaster in New York City. As of midday on Saturday, the city will close down its transportation system, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. This is the first time public transportation, including the city’s subway, will be completely closed for a natural disaster. Ninety-one emergency shelters have been erected across the city, and people have been urged to take precautions.
Eighty-four hurricane-force storms have affected the state of New York since the 17th century. But only a handful have made landfall within a hundred miles of NYC. Hurricane Irene could be added to the list, and it is big—more than 400 miles across and, while it has decreased in force over the last few hours, packing a punch.
But for now, the city rests and waits—anxious, attentive. The first rains in NYC are should start Saturday afternoon. The brute force of the marathon hurricane is expected to begin at roughly 1 am on Sunday morning, and last until the late afternoon. We’ll be at our home in Brooklyn (not in the evacuation zone). You can either check back here for updates, or following me on twitter, @mfox_us. Democracy now also has an excellent twitter list, @democracynow/hurricane-irene.
Image: Hurricane Irene on world map (credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)