With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast, New York City and state officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation of 250,000 people in flood-susceptible communities and announced plans to shut down much of the coastal region’s transit system, including subways, by noon Saturday.

Preparations included the evacuation of 22 nursing homes and hospitals in New York City’s low-lying areas Friday morning, the suspension of weekend construction work and the opening of all lanes in a 28-mile stretch of coastal New Jersey highway in the westward direction by Friday at 6 p.m. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 91 evacuation centers and shelters would open late Friday afternoon for people who could not stay in their homes.

See a map of New York City’s evacuation zones here, track the storm’s progress here, and see a large version of NYC’s evacuation plan pictured above here. –ARK

The New York Times:

With Hurricane Irene pushing relentlessly toward the East Coast, officials announced plans to evacuate low-lying areas in New York City and shut down the sprawling subway and transit system.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation — something he said the city had never done before — of coastal areas in Brooklyn; Queens, including all of the Rockaways; and Staten Island, along with Battery Park City and the financial district in Lower Manhattan and Governor’s Island. The evacuation covered 250,000 people who, he said, should get out before the storm swept in.

“You only have to look at the weather maps to understand how big this storm is and how unique it is,” the mayor said at a news conference, “and it’s heading basically for us.”

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