Tony Cologne unloaded cots from a minivan and stacked them at the entrance of a Hurricane Sandy evacuation center in City College, at 138th Street and Convent Avenue.
He and other volunteers have been working for three days to prepare for Northattan and other city residents who are forced to abandon their homes in the face of the most life-threatening storm that this city has witnessed in more than 30 years.
The center was now ready, he said Monday evening, as the first evacuees began to arrive. “Right now, it looks like we have about six people,” he said. “So you know, it’s still early. But people are going to start coming. The mayor has initiated an evacuation. So there should be more influx later this evening or maybe tomorrow morning.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered all residents in the most vulnerable parts of the city, called Zone A, to leave their homes and move elsewhere or into the centers. The eastern fringe of Northattan along the East River and its junction with Harlem River is one of of those areas because it is subject to flooding from expected surges of water up the rivers.
By Monday afternoon, the FDR Drive along the river was already closed as water began to lap across it.
Christie Rosen, who lives between the Harlem River and the FDR Drive was one of the first residents to arrive at the City College shelter from the area. “We’re in a low lying area. So, the water is on both sides of us. So, I’m really concerned.”
A volunteer at IS 88, the site of another evacuation center at 215 W. 114th St. in Harlem, said that they were expecting a spillover from people from other parts of the city.
A representative from the Mayor’s Press Office said there were 3,651 people in the 76 evacuation sites across the city as of 5:30 p.m. Monday evening. The sites are built to hold 70,000 people, he said.
By 5 p.m. Monday evening, Sandy was moving northwest at 28 mph with 90 mph winds, and according to the National Hurricane Center it was expected to make landfall near Atlantic City within the hour.