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Boro residents brace for Hurricane Irene

Many Queens residents moved into evacuation shelters as Hurricane Irene headed toward the city Saturday, but others opted to stay in their homes despite mandatory orders to evacuate some coastal areas of the borough.

“A lot of stubborn people,” said 46-year-old resident Jay Crane, who opted not to leave his Broad Channel home because of his pets, about those in the neighborhood who chose to weather the storm in their homes. “A lot of stubborn Irish people.”

In an unprecedented move, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the subways shut down at noon Saturday and ordered some coastal and low-lying areas evacuated due to the Category 1 storm expected to hit later in the evening. LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports were also shut down.

In Queens, those living in parts of the Rockaways, Breezy Point, Broad Channel and parts of Long Island City near Hunters Point were given the order to leave.

“If God forbid you needed some emergency services, our first responders would have to put their lives in jeopardy to get to you and to provide the service,” Bloomberg said in remarks Saturday afternoon.

The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning and tornado watch for Queens at 6:32 p.m. Saturday night. Bloomberg said during his remarks at 10:30 p.m. that the tornado watch was in effect until 5 a.m. NWS predicted 40 knot winds.

Bloomberg said Saturday evening one man was seriously injured trying to board up a house.

At the Bayside Marina this morning, President Martin Munch canceled the annual snapper derby and allowed in boat owners to secure their vessels up until noon, when the marina was shut for the day.

Evacuation centers were set up in public buildings throughout Queens. John Adams HS at 101-01 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park had taken in 500 people according to City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who posted an update on Facebook at 5 p.m.

“It’s horrible,” Far Rockaway resident and evacuee Jennifer Montano, 27, said of the experience. “It looks like a dorm. Beds next to beds next to beds.”

Montano, who came to the shelter with four children, said she was afraid of the storm washing away her house.

To Canadian tourist Irayda Melgar, 31, who was evacuated to Aviation High School at 45-30 36th St. in Sunnyside out of the apartment where she was staying with her sister, the experience was more enjoyable.

“I think it’s cool,” Melgar said. “I’ve only seen things like this on the news and stuff.”

Despite the Mayor’s warnings some decided to wait out the storm. Broad Channel resident Margaret Glade said she feared her home would be looted if she went.

“You know why people aren’t evacuating? They’re afraid,” Glade said.

One man walking the streets in Broad Channel called out, “Zone A rules! It rules!”  as he pumped his fist in the air Saturday, referring to the designation given to mandatory evacuation areas.

Yet others residents, including 41-year-old Brian Flynn, opted to go.

“About eight feet of water that’s coming down the block, that’s what’s making me leave,” Flynn said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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