May 9, 2006
NY 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 Administration.
"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 documents.
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 now."