Uptowners Stock Up Ahead of Sandy, But Evacuation Centers Quiet

By Charles Eichacker, Andres David Lopez, Sandra E. Garcia, and Kaitlyn Wells on Oct 28th, 2012

Joanna Hadjiyanis pays for hurricane supplies at Fairway Market in Harlem. (Photo by Andres David Lopez)

Northern Manhattan bodegas and supermarkets had no trouble selling bottled water and batteries as winds picked up this afternoon and city officials issued evacuation orders for low-lying areas before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall tomorrow.

Sandy, nicknamed Frankenstorm, will combine hurricane-level winds and flooding, the National Weather Service predicts. New York City shut down bus and subway service tonight and cancelled Monday classes in public schools.

The last 1 train came through the 137th Street-City College station around 7:20 p.m., but Oscar Williams, a Metro Transit Authority worker, said he would  work for another couple of hours to shut down turn stops, tape up stairs, lock doors and make sure the platforms were empty.

“It needs to be done because if the storm’s going to be as bad as they say, then it’s warranted,” Williams said. There is “no way” the subway will open tomorrow, Williams said; it takes 12 hours to start it back up.

Uptowners flocked to supermarkets to brace for what could be dangerous weather and long power outages.

“I want to be ahead of the storm. I want to make sure my family is taken care of,” said Maria Robinson, a home health aide and mother of two pushing a cart with soda and napkins around Bravo supermarket on Frederick Douglas Boulevard and 129th Street. “I want to have food and essential items such as batteries, portable radios, flashlights, you name it.”

“I’m happy; this gives me more time to study,” said City College student Haley Veith, cradling two gallons of water as she made her way home. CCNY has cancelled Monday classes and activities.

Randol Lara, an employee at Lara Grocery on the corner of West 127th Street and Convent Avenue, said customers were buying an average of three gallons of water each. “People are also buying stuff to munch on in the house, things you can eat to pass the time, like junk food, chips and soda,” said Lara, who didn’t expect sales to skyrocket but was monitoring the bodega’s stock of water.

“I honestly don’t think it will be that bad,” said Kenia Galo, a mother of three on her way to a friend’s house to pick up an extra cell phone to replace her lost one. “I’m from Honduras, so I’ve seen worse.”

In the one stretch of uptown Manhattan to make the city’s list of mandatory evacuation zones, along the Harlem River from 89th to 102nd Streets, Housing Authority workers secured the roofs and doors of the Stanley M. Isaacs housing complex on 93rd Street.

Housing Authority workers secure tarp over a dumpster to prevent flying debris outside of Isaacs Houses. (Photo by Andres David Lopez)

But residents were in no rush to get on the four buses standing by to take people to evacuation centers and hurricane shelters. “It doesn’t look like that many people are going,” said Rose Bergin, resident leader of her building. Rosen reported that the management had knocked on 600 doors.

“Max and I will stay,” said Isaacs tenant Nancy Sotomayor, referring to her dog. Last year, just before Hurricane Irene, “they came door to door,” Sotomayor said, “to put your name on a list and to help you evacuate.”  But in the end, she said, “It was just a lot of heavy rain and a little noise.”

The city set up six evacuation centers in northern Manhattan, stocked with food and cots. Manned by volunteers and police since 9 a.m., they were mostly empty this afternoon.

By 3 p.m., no evacuees had come to the shelter set up at IS 90 in Washington Heights. Francoise Pickart, 31, works for the Health Department, which asked her to volunteer. She joined half a dozen others preparing signs directing people to sleeping, meal and medical areas. “We’re just preparing, making sure everything is set up, so that when people start showing up, which we expect will happen tonight, we can take them in and process them as quickly as possible,” Pickart said.

“If you don’t evacuate,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement encouraging New Yorkers not to take the storm lightly, “you’re not just putting your own life in danger, you are endangering the lives of first responders who may have to come in and rescue you. And we hope you don’t face those kinds of dire situations, but you could.”

Written by Charles Eichacker with reporting by Andres David LopezSandra Garcia and Kaitlyn Wells

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