N.Y. City Urged to be Ready for Major Hurricane

June 13, 2007

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has warned that America’s largest city needs to be prepared for a hurricane powerful enough to cause serious flooding in lower Manhattan and elsewhere.

“It’s always a little odd being in New York and talking about hurricanes,” Chertoff said after touring a new command center at the Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn.

Still, he added, a hurricane “would be an extraordinarily devastating blow to the city.”

Weather experts have said New York is about due for a major hurricane with 130 mph (209 kph) winds and a 30-foot (9-meter) storm surge that could cause the Hudson and East Rivers to overflow.

Such a storm could inflict more than $100 billion (euro75 billion) in economic losses while forcing the evacuation of 3 million people _ more than six times the population of pre-Katrina New Orleans.

Historically, the city has endured a hurricane roughly once every 90 years. The last major New York-area hurricane in 1938 caused 700 deaths along the Eastern seaboard.

Last year, the city unveiled a new hurricane plan to evacuate 3 million people while sheltering more than 600,000 others. Emergency management officials estimated the preparedness costs at up to $30 million (euro22.5 million).

Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to station himself at the emergency management office for two weeks in July to better familiarize himself with the facility in case of an emergency, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said.

“We obviously can’t control the weather,” Skyler said, “but we can control our response.”

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