NEW YORK CITY — Floodwaters began to rise in all five boroughs Monday morning — and officials warned the waters could reach record levels when Hurricane Sandy pounds the city later this evening.
New Yorkers should heed the warnings, officials stressed, and not be lulled into a false sense of security by the limited damage caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011.
“Irene levels are currently being seen in the region right now," Department of State Operations Howard Glaser said at a press conference at the Governor's office Monday morning.
Many low-lying areas around the city had experienced flooding Monday morning, including the Rockaways, Long Island City and Red Hook, as well as parts of FDR Drive.
State officials also warned about potential of severe flooding at Battery Park City. The tide is expected to hit its high Monday between 8 and 9 p.m.
Forecasters are currently predicting a surge of 6 to 11 feet of water — which would shatter the record of 10.5 inches, caused by Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned a major surge in Lower Manhattan could potentially lead to significant power outages as well as possible electrical fires. The governor has also deployed the New York Naval Militia’s Military Emergency Boat Service, in addition to 1,000 extra New York Army and Air National Guard troops, to help with the surge.
Red Hook’s Van Brunt Street was still covered in a large pond early Monday afternoon.
Haesook Kim, 61, who lives in Fort Green, visited the end of Van Brunt Street overlooking the choppy waters of the East River to witness the jaw-dropping weather.
“This is very significant. It's a once in a lifetime chance to see this,” Kim said, adding, “New York is such an invincible city and the sense of community really comes out [during disasters].”
Marko Markovic, a 29-year-old Red Hook resident, said he didn’t heed the city’s warnings to evacuate because he thinks the storm’s severity is over-hyped.
“I didn't barricade my windows or anything. I don't think it's going to be that big a deal,” Markovic said at the river’s edge. "I guess people from Red Hook are prepared and they are welcoming Sandy."
Parts of Long Island City, including Gantry State Park, were underwater by noon.
“There are some parts of the park that are already underwater and the storm is not even here yet,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said as he toured the park this morning. “So there are some reasonable concerns about how high the water will get here and how much flooding we will see here in Hunters Point.”
Police were reportedly riding around the neighborhood reminding people there had been a request for mandatory evacuations.
A borough away in officers were turning people away from East River Park which was under an inch of water by 1 p.m. Monday.
The steady flooding that crippled parts of Far Rockaway early in the morning seemed to recede by midday — a calm before the storm this evening, experts warned.
Matt Sullivan, a construction worker who lives between Newport Avenue and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, said the water came up to the handles of car doors parked along his street at high tide Monday morning. Those waters sank back with low tide, but he’s worried about the returning flooding later Monday.
“If there’s slow but steady damage to my house, I can fix it while it happens,” Sullivan said. “But if it totally floods I’m done for.”
Sullivan added that he didn’t want to evacuate because Irene wasn’t that severe, but others in the Rockaways weren't taking any chances.
Cindy Melendez, a Rockaway resident, was waiting at Rockaway Freeway and Beach 45th Street for her husband to pick her up this morning and drive to a relative’s home in Astoria.
"We're leaving before it gets even worse. It's really bad," she said. "I have little ones so we just have to get out of here. Better safe than sorry."
Additional reporting by Chelsia Rose Marcius and Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska.