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NYC Hazards: Hurricane Evacuation


Under New York State law, the mayor has the power to declare a local state of emergency. This might include issuing evacuation instructions for one or more hurricane evacuation zones.

Deciding to issue evacuation instructions requires in-depth analysis of storm forecasts and local conditions, which is coordinated by the mayor, OEM, state and federal agencies, the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center, and jurisdictions throughout New Jersey, Long Island and New York.
Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone

Evacuation Instructions

The Mayor can issue two different kinds of evacuation instructions:
  • EVACUATION RECOMMENDATION: The Mayor may recommend certain residents take steps to evacuate voluntarily. A recommendation might be issued to cover residents of certain zones, communities or building types. An evacuation recommendation could also be issued for the benefit of people with mobility challenges who need extra time to evacuate.
  • EVACUATION ORDER: The Mayor may order residents of specific zones or communities to leave their homes for the protection of their health and welfare in the event of an approaching storm.
How to Evacuate

Since flooding and high winds can occur many hours before a hurricane makes landfall, it is critical evacuees leave their homes immediately if instructed to do so by emergency officials. Evacuees are encouraged to seek shelter with friends or family or outside evacuation zones when possible.

To avoid being trapped by flooded roads, washed-out bridges or disruptions to mass transportation, evacuees should plan their mode of transportation with special care.
  • Plan to use mass transit as much as possible, as it offers the fastest way to reach your destination. Using mass transit reduces the volume of evacuees on the roadways, reducing the risk of dangerous and time-consuming traffic delays.
  • Listen carefully to your local news media, which will broadcast reports about weather and transportation conditions.
  • Evacuations from at-risk zones will be phased to encourage residents in coastal areas to leave their homes before inland residents and to help ensure an orderly evacuation process.
  • Leave early. Evacuations will need to be completed before winds and flooding become a threat, because wind and heavy rain could force the early closure of key transportation routes, like bridges and tunnels.
The City advises against car travel during an evacuation. The City will be working hard to keep roads clear, but traffic is unavoidable in any evacuation. Driving will increase your risk of becoming stranded on a roadway during an evacuation.

  • Be ready for a long, slow trip. Be aware the City will deploy public safety personnel along major transportation routes to help vehicular traffic flow as smoothly as possible. Have a full gas tank before you go.
  • Stay tuned to local media for information about road and bridge closures. New York State's 511 can help you monitor traffic on State roads.
  • Evacuation Centers are the ONLY places where people may park vehicles. Many evacuation centers do NOT have parking available. Tune in to local media for instructions.
  • Large vehicles may be prohibited in windy conditions. This could apply to trailers, trucks, boats and other vehicles with a higher wind profile than a car or SUV.
  • In any significant rainstorm, avoid driving through standing water if you cannot tell how deep it is.
If you must go to an evacuation center, it is important to carefully select what you take with you. Do not bring more than you can carry, but be sure to bring your Go Bag with you.

Residents of high-rise apartment buildings may face special risks from hurricanes even if they live safely outside evacuation zone boundaries.

IF YOU LIVE IN A HIGH-RISE BUILDING LOCATED IN AN EVACUATION ZONE, heed all storm warnings and evacuation orders.


On or below the 10th floor:
  • Close and lock all windows and securely cover them to reduce damage and injury caused by flying debris. 
Above the 10th floor:
  • Be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • If you have a balcony or rooftop, remove all items that cannot be securely tied down.
Read OSHA's tips for Evacuating High-Rise Buildings (in PDF)

Evacuation Centers and Hurricane Shelters
If the mayor orders an evacuation of coastal areas, the City strongly recommends evacuees stay with friends or family outside evacuation zone boundaries. However, for those who have no alternative shelter, the City has identified hurricane shelters throughout the five boroughs.

All New Yorkers are welcome at New York City evacuation centers and hurricane shelters regardless of their immigration status.

Evacuation Centers

The City will ask all evacuees seeking public shelter to report to an evacuation center. These centers are located in all boroughs, are easily reached via public transportation. Some centers provide parking facilities.

Each evacuation center is associated with several hurricane shelters in what is known as its "solar system." There are currently 65 such systems in the city, each of which can accommodate an average of 10,000 people.

Evacuation centers help ensure the number of people in each shelter is roughly the same to reduce overcrowding and underused facilities. At the evacuation center, evacuees will be assigned to a particular evacuation shelter and be transported by bus or van.

To find out the location of your nearest evacuation center, use OEM's Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder.

Hurricane Shelters

The shelters are secure facilities with public safety personnel on site. They are designed to accommodate people with disabilities and special needs. Please bring bedding, toiletries, medication, and other personal items for you and your loved ones travelling with you.

Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in shelter areas. The NYC emergency sheltering system is friendly to all pets but you will be responsible for their care so please bring your pet’s food, leashes, cage, and medication. Pets are sheltered in a separate area within the facility, and ideally, you should arrange to shelter other pets at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area.
Learn more about emergency preparedness for pets