May 10, 2006

New York warned to prepare for hurricanes

By Martinne Geller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A hurricane with only moderate
intensity could wreak havoc in New York City because it has
been years since the nation's financial center faced severe
weather, government forecasters warned on Tuesday.

"The first time we get hit here with a Category 2, it's
going to be disastrous," said meteorologist Michael Wyllie of
the National Weather Service, referring to the scale used to
rate hurricane strength.

Wyllie said powerful storms have missed New York in recent
years, unlike parts of the Gulf Coast, where periodic storms
"thin out the trees and the buildings."

Gloria, the last big storm to hit the New York area, caused
about $900 million in economic losses along the East Coast in
1985, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

"It's not like we can all run down to Home Depot and pick
up these two-by-fours to board up windows," said John Koch,
lead forecaster at the NWS forecast office in New York. "What
we want people to do is know what they are going to do with
their family and their pets."

Koch urged residents to familiarize themselves with the
location of evacuation zones and make plans to have extra dry
clothes, medicines, batteries, water and copies of valuable

Although evacuation orders might be limited to low-lying
areas, Koch said high winds could put tall buildings throughout
the city at risk.

"Winds increase with height, so you're going to see much
stronger wind on the 30th floor or the 50th floor of a building
than you do at the surface," Koch said.

Wyllie said he expects the hurricane season, which starts
June 1 and lasts until November 30, to be similar to last year,
which saw an unprecedented 28 storms including Katrina.

"If there are more storms out there, odds are you have a
higher chance of being hit," Koch said. "It could be this year,
it could be five years from now, it could be 10 years from