As Hurricane Irene continues to make its way towards New York, residents are preparing themselves for an emergency situation.
Among those who are possibly in the hurricane’s path are the Jewish residents of Queens, where as of 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday evening there was heavy rain without any strong winds.
The rabbis of Nassau County, the "Five Towns" heavily Jewish area on the south shore of Long Island and bordering Far Rockaway, Queens, sent out flyers to congregants warning them to take adequate precautions over the Sabbath.
“There aren’t any strong winds yet, but forecasters say the winds will start in the morning and will be between 50 and 75 mph,” Sigalit Nissanian, a resident of Queens, told Arutz Sheva.
She noted that while she and her family have not been evacuated from their homes, some residents of Queens who live close to the shores have been evacuated, including family friends.
“Our zone was not evacuated but many people we know who live in Nassau County and Rockaway were evacuated and they were not given a choice. They were forced to leave their homes,” said Nissanian. “It was a mandatory evacuation.”
She added that the authorities are taking the hurricane very seriously, shutting down the trains, buses, and even the lower level of the George Washington Bridge.
“They’ve told people to stay home. We’ve equipped ourselves with candles and flashlights. We’ve got batteries and extra water in case there’s a power outage,” she said. “The authorities seem to be panicking. It’s the first time in history that they’ve actually had to shut down New York City.”
Nissanian said that Irene has even had an effect on the community’s Jewish worship.
“We had a Shabbat Chatan (pre-wedding celebration for a young man about to be married –ed.) and they did everything quickly before 3:00 p.m.,” she said. “Our rabbi said that whoever doesn’t feel that it’s safe enough to return to the synagogue for Ma’ariv (evening service –ed.) can pray at home. The streets are empty. It looks like a ghost town. They've never shut down New York City like now, not even in the biggest snowstorms.”
On Saturday, Hurricane Irene slammed into the North Carolina coast, knocking out electricity for nearly a quarter of a million residents. At least nine people have reportedly died from the hurricane, the latest death being of a man in Virginia whose home got hit by a falling tree.
El Al, Delta and US Airways have cancelled flights to and from Israel as the hurricane heads towards the Big Apple.
El Al’s 001 and 027 flights from Israel were grounded Saturday night and early Sunday morning, and flights 026 and 028 did not take off from New York, where LaGuardia and JFK airports were shut down, along with the airport in Newark, New Jersey.
US Airways canceled its flights to and from Philadelphia and Tel Aviv.