ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said this afternoon that downstate looks as if it will bear the brunt of Hurricane Sandy in New York State.
Cuomo, at a 4 p.m. press conference on Long Island, said 180,000 New Yorkers are without power; 140,000 of them are located in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The state has ordered the closing already or later this evening of a number of bridges downstate, including the Tappan Zee between Rockland and Westchester counties and George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into Manhattan.
With a storm surge from the Atlantic Ocean expected later this evening, Cuomo said most of the 2,000 National Guard troops he ordered into service will be deployed on Long Island.
“Long Island becomes more and more vulnerable and the primary area of our operation,” Cuomo said.
Federal and state officials at a morning news briefing in Cuomo’s Manhattan office said water levels had already reached the more than nine-foot heights reached during last year’s Hurricane Irene. Projections are now that today’s storm could see a surge hit as high as 11.7 feet at about 9 p.m. Irene, which did most of its damage upstate, reached a height of 9.5 feet in lower New York.
“If there is a concern, that is it,” Cuomo said of the potential storm surge of water that officials say could especially hit hard New York City and Long Island.
The governor ordered the closing later this afternoon of two tunnels leading into Manhattan from Brooklyn and New Jersey. All New York City area subway, train and bus service already has been suspended.
Cuomo, accompanied this morning by state, local and federal officials, including representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, also announced he was calling up another 1,000 National Guard troops to help with post-storm efforts. On Sunday, the first round of 1,000 troops was mobilized and Cuomo ordered state boats, including state police rescue craft, to be moved from upstate to downstate this morning.
“Do not underestimate this storm. These forecasts for the surge are really extraordinary. We are talking about surges we’ve not seen before,” Cuomo said.
Officials also are cautious about a repeat of last year’s Irene effects. Before that hurricane hit, pre-storm forecasts were that New York City would be hit hardest. Instead, upstate areas of the Catskills, Mohawk Valley and Adirondacks suffered the brunt of the storm and communities have still yet to recover. Over the weekend, levels of reservoirs were ordered lowered by state officials to prevent walls of water from inundating upstate communities.
Cuomo also said officials are worried about power outages, which could last longer if the storm hits hard because utility repair crews will be stretched thin across multiple states on the East Coast.