[UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.: MTA is shutting down at noon tomorrow, 8/27]: Yesterday the MTA proactively offered its plan for what it will do with Hurricane Irene—and that means a partial or full shut down, if things get really messy. Here's the agency's statement:

The MTA is actively preparing for the impact of Hurricane Irene, coordinating with the Governor's Office, Mayor's Office and regional OEMs consistent with our Hurricane Plan. We are making arrangements to bring in extra personnel over the weekend, preparing our facilities and infrastructure by clearing drains, securing work sites against possible high winds, checking and fueling equipment, stocking supplies, and establishing plans to move equipment and supplies away from low-lying areas as needed. Because of the severity of the wind and rain associated with a hurricane, there may be partial or full shut down of our services to ensure the safety of our customers and employees. We are also prepared to implement evacuation plans if the Mayor and Governor decide that is necessary. We urge our customers to check mta.info frequently and to consider the impacts of this storm when making travel plans through the weekend.

According to Metropolis

, "The transit agency, which runs the city’s subways, buses and several commuter trains, can’t guarantee the safety of riders and employees if sustained winds reach above 39 miles per hour, Walder said. Even a weakened Irene would bring winds in excess of that speed, making it likely that the MTA will start shutting down service Saturday morning. There could be lingering delays and service outages into Monday’s morning rush hour." It takes eight hours to shut down the whole system, and Walder also said the MTA would help with any city- or state-order evacuations.

Hurricane Irene is scheduled to hit the East Coast on Saturday (around 2 p.m. in North Carolina) and will head to the NYC area sometime on Sunday. While Irene is a Category 2 storm now, it's expected it will be a Category 3 storm when it does hit NC and may taper off into a Category 1 hurricane by the time it comes to NYC.

Four years ago, the subway system was brought to its knees when an unusual tornado hit New York City. So last year, when Hurricane Earl was about to rear its stormy head, the MTA offered up a plan for its various services.