Hurricane Sandy churned towards New York City Monday as the first rain hit Battery Park shortly before 7am and winds started to pick up.
The streets of lower Manhattan were earily quiet just after 8am with the normally bustling streets empty. New Yorkers hunkered down in their homes, transforming the metropolis into a transit-free ghost town.
With fears of an 11-foot water surge that could inundate low-lying neighborhoods, city and state officials ordered residents to evacuate for higher ground and shut down all public transportation.
High-wind warnings went into effect at 6 a.m. Monday and continue through 6 p.m. Tuesday. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a coastal flood warning from 6 a.m. on Monday to 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
Mass transit service also came to a grinding halt and was not expected to resume before Tuesday.
For the second time in as many years, Mayor Bloomberg ordered all residents of flood-prone areas — known as Zone A — to evacuate their homes. The mayor did the same thing before Hurricane Irene last year, but that storm fizzled as it hit the Big Apple.
“When there’s no mass transit, and with weather as bad as it’s going to be, we don’t want to put children’s lives at risk,” Hizzoner said from the Office of Emergency Management in downtown Brooklyn. “We need cooperation of the public. Please listen to the evacuation order.”
President Obama, who declared a state of emergency in New York and New Jersey, promised the government would “respond big and respond fast” after the storm hits.