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Army Corps should brace boro for effects of hurricane: Weiner

The Category 4 Hurricane Earl that was churning its way through the Caribbean this week could endanger Queens homes and the Belt Parkway if it passes by New York over Labor Day weekend as forecast early this week, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) said.

The National Weather Service said the storm, with winds as strong as 135 mph, is not expected to make landfall in New York, although it did warn of possible rip tides along the Eastern Seaboard. Beachgoers were not allowed to swim off Rockaway Beach Tuesday because of rough waters.

Weiner called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be ready to react to Queens and Brooklyn being slammed by the effects of the hurricane that weather officials expect to soak the New York area beginning Thursday night and continue throughout the weekend.

“The Army Corps needs to be prepared for the possibility that coastal areas of Queens and Brooklyn, including the Belt Parkway and residential homes, are literally one storm away from catastrophe,” Weiner wrote in a letter to Lt. Gen. Van Antwerp of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Even if New York is not hit directly by the hurricane, the storm could cause flooding and erosion to low-lying areas along the Queens and Brooklyn coasts, Weiner said.

Parts of Rockaway lost up to 6 feet of sand during a storm last winter.

Weiner said he has been particularly concerned about beach erosion, and he secured $2.8 million to supply Rockaway Beach with a fresh infusion of sand last year.

Federal weather officials said there is a “heightened risk” of rip tides in Queens as well as Brooklyn and Long Island, because of Hurricane Earl.

“If you become caught in a rip current, stay calm and do not fight it,” the National Weather Service said in a statement. “Swim parallel to the shore until you break free of the current, then swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore.”

If swimmers think they will not be able to reach the shore, they should draw attention to themselves by calling or waving for help, federal officials said.

The Federal Emergency Mangement Agency said it is closely monitoring the hurricane.

“I encourage everyone in the region and along the Eastern Seabord to visit ready.gov and take steps now to keep their family safe and secure,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said. “The most important thing for people living in Earl’s potential track to do is to listen to and follow the instructions of their local officials, including evacuation instructions if they are given.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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