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Mayor Unveils Hurricane Preparedness Plan

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Saying New York has learned from mistakes made after Hurricane Katrina, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the city's own emergency plan Wednesday.

A storm of category four or higher has never hit the city in recorded history, but if even a category one storm were to make landfall, the mayor says there are several parts of the city that would be in danger of flooding.

If a stronger storm were to hit, the mayor said as many as three million people would need to be evacuated.

A team of more than 34,000 city employees - along with a variety of agencies - would organize the mass mobilization and bring residents to evacuation shelters and then onto one of 500 shelters.

The city's hurricane preparedness plan divides the city into color-coded Hurricane Evacuation Zones, distinguished by their degree of hurricane vulnerability.

The city's plan involves using mass transit to help evacuate residents. If a major hurricane were to hit, the city would implement snow emergency traffic regulations.

The city would also ask the state to waive tolls and the MTA to waive fares.

As the result of a key lesson learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the FDNY would help in evacuating people from hospitals or nursing homes. They would be transported to one of 65 emergency shelters - nearly triple the number the city had just a year ago.

"It's extremely unlikely that such a mass evacuation will ever happen, but if it does, we believe that we're ready," said Bloomberg. “I am confident that we can weather any coastal storms.”

While strong hurricanes are rare here, experts say New York City could easily see one in the near future.

“If you average out the storms of the last 250 years, we are really only hit by one maybe every 70 or 80 years,” said climatologist Jeffrey Schultz. “The last one to hit us was in 1938 further out on Long Island, called ÎThe Long Island Express.’ So in a sense we are overdue.”

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a critic of the mayor’s plan, says he will hold a hearing on it next month. He says it's confusing and doesn't do enough to bring the elderly and sick to shelter.

“We need a system that’s simpler, that people can actually do,” said Brodsky. “This plan is not it.”

The city plans to send out about 300,000 hurricane preparedness brochures, in 11 different languages, to households considered most vulnerable to coastal storm damage.

New Yorkers can also get a copy by calling 311.
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