With Mayor Bloomberg having had a mini-freak out yesterday, and Governor Andrew Cuomo declaring a state of emergency due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene, President Obama warned East Coast residents about the "extremely dangerous and costly" storm. "All indications point to this being a historic hurricane," Obama said in a statement from the Martha's Vineyard farm where he is vacationing.
He urged people to take precautions now, and warned that people need to take the storm seriously: "I cannot stress this highly enough. If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don't wait, don't delay."
The storm was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane earlier today by the National Hurricane Center; but the NHC is still predicting the storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 3 to 6 feet above ground level along the Jersey shore. In preparation for the hurricane, Bloomberg announced the evacuation of the "most vulnerable New Yorkers" last night, including hospital patients, those in nursing homes and homes for aged, newborns, and also New Yorkers "who because of age or infirmity are homebound" in Zone A areas.
Today, Staten Island Hospital has begun evacuating its general population in addition. US airlines began canceling weekend flights to avoid any lengthy delays; JetBlue Airways has already canceled 434 flights in all. AirTran Airlines has canceled 28 flights for Saturday, including flights to New York, Boston and Washington, and Amtrak is still considering whether they will cancel more routes, after canceling all service below DC.