Jews in New York State’s "Five Towns” made ready for Irene as it thunders into the area. Rabbis allowed radios to be on during the Sabbath.
The Five Towns is an informal name for the grouping of villages and towns in Nassau County, New York on the South Shore of western Long Island adjoining the border with Queens County in New York City. It includes Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Hewlett and Inwood and residents of the southwest corner of the Town of Hempstead.
Its Orthodox Jewish communities sent out a flyer to members of their congregations, which stated:
"Dear Resident of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns.
We understand that many in the community may be scared, concerned, or simply unsure of what should or should not be done in anticipation of the predicted Hurricane Irene which potentially might hit our neighborhood this weekend.
We have been working over the last several hours with community leaders exploring all possibilities which we may face during this storm.”
The efforts were coordinated with rescue services, such as Hatzolah Emergency Servies, Achiezer Community Resource Center and local police.
The Vaad Harabbonim (Rabbinic Council, ed.) of the Five Towns, also a signatory to the flyer, concluded that in view of the danger to life, “It is permissible, and strongly encouraged, [to] leave a battery powered radio set to a news channel” during the Sabbath.”
The community eaders asked residents to report the names of elderly and handicapped people so that they can be evacuated quickly and safely, if necessary.
Hurricane Irene began battering the New York area shortly after midnight Saturday, and Jews were advised to make plans to be away for the Day of Rest if they felt uncomfortable waiting for the storm during the Sabbath.
The Town of Hempstead stated, “We want to provide our residents, especially seniors and other vulnerable residents, with essential resources and tips to prepare for the major storm forecast for this weekend,” Town Supervisor Kate Murray said.
The local Brandon Patch website reported that the town has made boats available if roads are flooded, but marinas are removing boats from the water to prevent damage from the hurricane’s ferocious winds and high waves.
Although Irene was downgraded to the lowest level in terms of danger, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, “I would not advise people to focus on category 1, 2 or 3. Irene remains a large and dangerous storm. People need to be prepared.”
Storm damage is projected to run at more than $55 billion.