At his press conference this morning, Mayor Bloomberg said Con Edison may preemptively shut off the power to Lower Manhattan, sparing the grid widespread damage but possibly leaving residents and business without power until Monday. “You can plan on the possibility of no power downtown,” he said, noting that ConEd will make the final decision in the coming hours.

“The most important thing is to make sure their facilities aren’t damaged, which would take a long time to repair. If salt water gets into the underground cables and those cables are carrying electricity, there is a real chance of damage to those lines,” he explained. “There is a lot less chance of damage to the lines if those power cables are not carrying power.”

[Update] Con Edison has taken to their Twitter account to dispel the idea that they will cut power to Lower Manhattan before Irene hits New York City. "#conEdison is not shutting down power before storm hits. Will shut power in some areas if flooding occurs to protect equipment."

[Second Update] Assemblyman and Democratic District Leader for the 63rd District Paul Newell has shed some light on where ConEd may enact outages in Lower Manhattan: "Con Edison may shut down all power south of Fulton Street and East of Broadway tomorrow (Sunday)."

He also notes, "All public transportation has been shut down and private vehicles— including taxis—will be banned in lower Manhattan from 8:00PM tonight." Newell is also calling for volunteers to staff shelters in the Lower East Side and at Baruch College tonight and tomorrow.