They streamed out of low-lying New York apartments and grand Connecticut shore homes, a steady, often reluctant parade of evacuees with rolling suitcases and duffel bags; birds and cats in cages; Fruit Roll-Ups and stacks of magazines.
Hundreds of thousands of residents from East Haven, Conn., to Cape May, N.J., were ordered to leave their homes Sunday as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Eastern Seaboard. Many complied, departing by car or ferry, school bus or subway train, though not without stress or anger, as people in Lower Manhattan jostled tensely for taxis and yelled at others for jumping ahead of them. The exodus out of Connecticut was so large that some gas stations ran out of fuel.
“Everyone is panicky — oh my God, they bring in any kind of container they can think of and fill it up with gas!" said Ann Persaud, owner of the South 7 Citgo station in New Milford.
Some evacuations were more complicated: Some 60 patients and 180 nursing home residents were moved by ambulance and bus from Long Beach Medical Center to higher ground in Nassau County and elsewhere.
“We’re all being taken out; I don’t want to go," said Carol Mule, 74, a patient. “But it’s better than staying here being flooded to death."
Still, with memories of last year’s less-than-ferocious Hurricane Irene still fresh, some residents simply would not move, expressing skepticism and a New York-style nonchalance, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s warning that they were risking their safety by staying.
“Last time they made such a big hype out of it and nothing happened," said John Miller, 27, who chose to stay in his Battery Park City apartment, having evacuated last year to New Haven, Conn., and been stuck there for a week because it was hit harder than New York.
This time, Miller was hunkering down, stockpiling water, soup, crackers and pasta and filling his bathtub with water. His friend Paola Boettner was remaining, too. “It’s more painful to evacuate than stay," she said.
Bloomberg ordered people living in Zone A — which includes parts of all five boroughs — to evacuate.
People who stayed behind would not face arrest, but Bloomberg said they would not only put themselves at risk, but also possibly endanger the lives of emergency responders.
“We hope you don’t face those kinds of dire situations, but you could."
Bloomberg said the decision to evacuate came after forecasters said that flooding from the storm would be graver than originally thought: a storm surge of 6 to 11 feet was forecast for New York. Areas of New Jersey and Connecticut were put under evacuation orders, too.