New York City is taking historic measures in anticipation of Hurricane Irene's bite: Beginning tomorrow around noon, the entire mass transit system will be shut down, a process that could take as long as eight hours. Additionally, a quarter of a million people have been directed to evacuate. Mayor Bloomberg announced that 91 emergency shelters would be open, and ordered those living in low-lying areas, like Coney Island, Far Rockaway, and lower Manhattan's Battery Park City, to leave their homes by 5pm tomorrow.
"We've never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn't be doing it now if we didn't think this storm had the potential to be very serious," he said at a news conference today. Those who don't comply could face a $500 fine or 90 days in jail, but Bloomberg said punishment wasn't the objective: "Nobody's going to get fined. Nobody's going to jail. But if you don't follow this, people might die." Irene's heavy winds are expected to hit late tomorrow or early Sunday. Reuters notes that only five hurricanes have come within 75 miles of the city since 1851. (Read more Hurricane Irene stories.)