NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Calling Hurricane Sandy an "unpredictable" storm, Tri-State Area officials urged New Yorkers to prepare for the worst as the storm, boasting winds of 75 mph, began progressing up the East Coast Saturday.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency "in every county in the state" and activated the emergency crews to monitor Sandy as it worked its way north. The declaration of emergency allows access to federal funding and more flexibility for the state government, Cuomo said.
Cuomo was also asking for a pre-disaster declaration to get better access to governmental assistance. Experts predict at least $1 billion in damage.
"Primarily, we're going to have the National Guard on alert," Cuomo added. "This is very early. We're taking the best precautions we can."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents to be proactive, calling Sandy a "large, unpredictable storm."
1010 WINS' Gary Baumgarten reports...
There are many areas that will be at risk as the storm approaches, Bloomberg said at an Office of Emergency Management news conference. Several areas have been designated as Evacuation Zone A.
Those areas, Bloomberg said, include:
• Coney Island, Manhattan Beach and Red Hook and other areas along the East River in Brooklyn;
• All of the Rockaways, as well as Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel in Queens;
• Almost all of the coastline of Staten Island;
• City Island, a small patch of Throgg's Neck, and another patch of the South Bronx in the Bronx;
• Battery Park City and stretches of the West Side waterfront and of the Lower East Side and East Village in Manhattan.
"Whenever or wherever this storm comes ashore, however, our city is very likely to feel its effects, in the form of high tides, high winds, and heavy rainfall lasting for several days," Bloomberg said Friday afternoon. "There's the possibility of parts of our city flooding, or high winds that could force certain bridges to be closed.
Mayor Bloomberg advised New Yorkers that an MTA shutdown could begin at 7 p.m. on Sunday, and that residents should plan to travel while public transportation is still available. Still, some New Yorkers were not sure how they would handle a mass transit shut down.
"Oh my god it will be horrible, I will get home, I don't even know how could they do that?" said Crystal Serrano, of Williamsburg.
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"New Yorkers can also help themselves by stocking up on basic supplies and making what we call a 'Go Bag,' a bag that you could take with you if you had to leave home on a moment's notice," Bloomberg added. "Some of the things you should have in a Go Bag are drinking water, first-aid kit, flashlight, any important medications you take, essential documents such as passports or other forms of ID, and an extra set of car and house keys. You certainly have time tomorrow, the weather will be okay to go and to get the things that you need."
For more information on how to prepare for the storm, click here.
Cuomo asked New Yorkers to monitor their TVs and radios for weather alerts.
Like Bloomberg, he also urged people to prepare storm kits. They include non-perishable food, water, cash, filled prescriptions, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, first aid kit, flashlights and extra batteries.
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Bloomberg said emergency plans in New York City are already well under way, including plans for possible evacuations.
"What we are doing is we are taking the kind of precautions you should expect us to do, and I don't think anyone should panic," Bloomberg said. The city has opened an emergency situation room and activated its coastal storm plan.
"We have no idea if it's going to be the same as [Hurricane] Irene," Bloomberg said, adding some 375,000 people live in the zone most likely to be subject to evacuation.
"Zone A" includes Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Red Hook and other areas along the East River, the Rockaways, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel, the coast of Staten Island, City Island and Battery Park City. Bloomberg said there were no mandatory evacuations being ordered and urged people to stay abreast of the latest information.
"We haven't yet made a decision about whether schools will be open on Monday," Bloomberg said, adding officials still don't "have a good sense of when and where it's going to hit land."
"Common sense says you should start taking precautions," Bloomberg said. "This is a potentially dangerous storm."
Sandy rolled out of the Bahamas on Friday after causing 40 deaths across the Caribbean, churning toward the U.S. East Coast, where it threatened to join forces with winter weather fronts to create a devastating super storm.
Forecasters said they could meet around New Jersey or New York on Tuesday morning, creating a meteorological mess. Heavy rain would cause flooding along the coast and inland. Strong winds were expected to down trees and power lines.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco, who coined the nickname "Frankenstorm," said: "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting." Sandy has the potential to bring five inches of rain or more.
WCBS 880's Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs: Island Officials Manning Emergency Centers Starting Today
From Virginia to New York, residents and officials were bracing for the worst.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Friday that all planned subway service changes over the weekend were cancelled with the exception of changes planned for the 7 and J lines -- they were scheduled through Saturday only.
Click here for more information and to monitor any further changes of MTA service.
Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri ordered all exterior work at construction sites in New York City suspended as of 5 p.m. Saturday until further notice.
Contractors and property owners risked being issued a violation if their construction sites and buildings were not properly secured in preparation for the storm.
Utilities were gearing up as well. Outages that lasted for days after last year's freak Halloween snowstorm and Hurricane Irene in late August 2011 were pressuring power companies to be more ready for what Sandy had in store for the region.
Watch Sandy From Space: Courtesy of NASA
Con Ed utility crews were preparing for a pair of very challenging storm effects.
"With the wind and high rain, knocks trees and power lines, cuts off service the storm surge, causes flooding and into electrical causes big problems. We'll be keeping an eye on all of that," spokesman Michael Clendenin told CBS 2's Dave Carlin.
"We're looking at this as if it may be as bad as the Nor'easter in '92; it certainly at this moment looks to be worse than Hurricane Irene," spokesman Bob McGee told 1010 WINS. "We're getting emergency crews ready and contractors ready to respond to whatever happens."
LONG ISLAND PREPARING FOR IMPACT
The Long Island Power Authority began coordinating efforts with state, New York City, county and local emergency management organizations, spokesman Mark Gross said Friday.
"We urge customers not to take this storm lightly and start making preparations as this storm could result in a multi-day outage for parts of our service territory,'' Gross said.
WCBS 880's Sophia Hall: LIPA Prepares And Wants You To Prepare Too
LIPA's Michael Hervey said he was worried about the storm and said residents must be prepared.
"This is going to be a very large impact storm. Customers should expect multiple-day outages," he told WCBS 880 reporter Sophia Hall.
"Go ahead. Get their medications updated. Get their relatives, make sure they're taken care of. Take all the precautions for a multiple-day electric outage," he said.
LIPA called in crews from all over the country.
"We're calling to Indiana and Michigan, down into the southern states also -- Alabama," he said.
Since Irene, when people had power out for up to one week, he said the communication with customers has improved, including text messaging outage information and the website now shows where crews are located fixing problems.
Residents were on ready alert. Karen Febrizio said she wasn't taking chances, knowing full well the fury of Mother Nature -- bay and ocean waters poured into her Long Beach home when Irene came calling last year. The calm before the storm is prep time.
"We do what we usually do -- put everything away and pray for the best," Febrizio told CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff.
"We're asking folks to take all their outdoor furniture, Halloween decorations and lock 'em down," Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said.
At Long Bach City Hall sand bags were going fast and being filled by residents who said they know the drill.
"I've got a driveway with a slope so I put up boards and sandbags and hopefully that'll keep out as much as I can," Nick Febrizio said.
All across Long Island preparations were underway for a storm that had a course that was unclear. Eight-foot ocean sand berms were put up along Nassau County's South Shore and in Suffolk County, Babylon had its bucket trucks and pay loaders ready to haul away downed trees.
"Today we're checking all our trucks. We are good to go," Commissioner of Public Works Tom Stay said.
At the Stop 'n Shop in Oceanside, residents were stocking up on water and batteries, preparing for a long three-day stretch.
"I'm getting water and drinks and anything that doesn't need to be refrigerated," one person told CBS 2's Gusoff.
"I have water and toilet paper because you always need that," another person added.
Emergency managers in Suffolk said the worst of it could be flooding, adding to expect a storm surge of 6-8 feet and flooding on both shores.
The people along the waterfront in Freeport learned their lesson after Tropical Storm Irene. With the flood waters up to people's waists, stores flooded out. Shop owners had the same concerns in advance of Sandy's landfall.
"There's a couple of places that just finished rebuilding again, and now they're just like 'I don't know what to do.' These guys, jewelry stores and everything, they have to empty everything out," Mike Dermier told CBS 2's Jessica Schneider.
THE SITUATION UPSTATE
On Babbitt Court in Greenburgh, residents had a simple solution for the flooded home -- lift it up.
"We elevated it almost six feet...it's an amazing operation," Jim Hurley said.
Hurley's house is in a notorious flood zone near the Saw Mill River and he said he had had enough.
"If we didn't do it, the water would be six-feet up in the house," he told CBS 2's Dick Brennan.
People hammered by Irene last year were bracing for the worst. Yonkers declared a state of emergency on Friday.
"It allows the city to put in safeguards to protect our residents," said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.
But authorities said Mother Nature would have the upper hand.
"There is only so much municipalities can do," said Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.
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