The nation's largest subway system and arriving flights at the five main New York City-area airports were preparing to shut down Saturday as Hurricane Irene spun its way up the Eastern Seaboard, forcing more than 300,000 evacuations and dimming lights at Citi Field and on Broadway.
By deciding to shut down the transit system by noon, millions of carless New Yorkers from the Bronx's most distant reaches down through Manhattan and out to the beaches of Brooklyn and Queens will be faced with the question of where to go and how to get there.
They include New Yorkers like 82-year-old Abe Feinstein, who has lived since the early 1960s on the eighth floor of a building that overlooks the famed boardwalk of Coney Island, which is in the evacuation zone and was alive with giddy visitors Friday.
"How can I get out of Coney Island? What am I going to do? Run with this walker?" he said.
But Feinstein also wasn't too worried.
He recalled watching a hurricane in 1985 from an apartment down the street from where he lives now.
"I think I have nothing to worry about," Feinstein said. "I've been through bad weather before. It's just not going to be a problem for us."
Bridges and tunnels also could be closed as the storm approaches, clogging traffic in an already congested city.
The five main New York City-area airports were scheduled to close at noon Saturday for arriving domestic and international flights. Three of them, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, are among the nation's busiest airports.
Officials hoped most residents would stay with family and friends, and for the rest the city opened nearly 100 shelters with a capacity of 71,000 people.
Irene was expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday, then roll up the Interstate 95 corridor reaching New York on Sunday. A hurricane warning was issued for the city Friday afternoon, the first time that's happened since Gloria in 1985.
If the storm stays on its current path, skyscraper windows could shatter, tree limbs would fall and debris would be tossed around. Streets in the southern tip of the city could be under a few feet of water, and police readied rescue boats but said they wouldn't go out if conditions were poor.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was confident people would get out of the storm's way.
"We do not have the manpower to go door-to-door and drag people out of their homes," he said. "Nobody's going to get fined. Nobody's going to go to jail. But if you don't follow this, people might die."
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