Barriers up, beaches closed as storm Isaias threatens NYC

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Deanne Criswell (C), commissioner of the city’s Emergency Management Department, visit South Street Seaport as workers erect temporary flood barriers in preparation for potential flooding and a storm surge from Tropical Storm Isaias on August 03, 2020 in New York City. The storm, which is heading up the East Coast packing heavy winds, is expected to dump several inches of rain on the metro area starting late this evening and into tomorrow. The interlocking tubes, called Tiger Dams, are installed in areas that were heavily damaged from flooding during Hurricane Sandy.

Noam Galai | Getty Images News | Getty Images

New York City is putting up storm barriers to protect its famed South Street Seaport, officials are warning of heavy rain and flooding, and commuter train service to and from Connecticut is being reduced with Tropical Storm Isaias expected to hit the Northeastern U.S. on Tuesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said forecast models show the Seaport section of Lower Manhattan getting the worst of the storm and that the temporary barriers being installed Monday along that stretch of the East River will protect its cobblestone streets and historic structures from what’s projected to be up to 2 feet of storm surge.

The barriers are among several preparedness and resiliency measures the city has put in place in the nearly eight years since Superstorm Sandy inundated streets and subway tunnels with seawater, knocked out power to part of Manhattan and left coastal communities from Queens to Staten Island in ruins. The Seaport area was hit with about 4 feet of storm surge during Sandy, de Blasio said.

The storm is the latest crisis in a region already grappling with the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, including a summer of social distancing and uncertainty about school in the fall, and weeks of sometimes fitful protests over police misconduct.

“I want to encourage all New Yorkers take this storm seriously,” de Blasio said at a waterfront news briefing Monday. “Please take precautions. Please look out for your neighbors. If anyone needs help, make sure you’re there for them because this is the kind of thing that comes on fast and people need to be ready.”

Isaias was forecast to strengthen and hit the Carolinas on Monday as a minimal hurricane before weakening and moving into the New York area on Tuesday, where the National Weather Service says it’ll bring several inches of rain and possibly wind gusts up to 70 mph. The heaviest rain in the city is expected from noon to 2 p.m.

All city beaches will be closed to swimming, though surfing will be allowed in some areas. No lifeguards will be on duty, but parks department staff will be patrolling the coastline for scofflaw swimmers, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said.

Metro-North will operate its commuter trains on a weekend schedule Tuesday with hourly service on most lines, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said. Trains will run every two hours on the northern end of the Harlem Line in New York and every three hours on the Danbury branch in Connecticut.

Tandem trailers and empty tractor trailers will be banned from most bridges in the city from noon to midnight Tuesday and speed restrictions could be put in place on the George Washington Bridge and Staten Island crossings, officials said. Subways and buses will continue to run, but some system maintenance could be suspended.

In preparing for the storm, the city sent crews to clear catch basins in flood-prone areas over the weekend and will have teams positioned during the storm to quickly respond to problems, Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell said.

“That’s something that we actually didn’t do during Sandy,” she said. “I think it’ll make a big impact on how we respond here.”

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