Hurricane Irene: New York City Direct Hit?

VIDEO: Densely populated regions in Irenes path get ready.
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Philadelphia, Boston and New York are some of the largest metro areas in the United States, and Hurricane Irene is heading their way.

Tonight many of the forecast models show the center of the storm blowing straight through New York City.

There are dozens of models that are changing all the time, but this morning one had the Big Apple, and its 19 million people, taking a direct hit. The model showed the center of the storm going up Fifth Avenue past the iconic lions of the New York Public Library and then up the west side of Central Park.

So is a city like New York that has seen only five hurricanes since 1851 ready for a storm like Irene?

Experts say the skyscrapers are built to withstand hurricane force wind, but it is the flooding that is the real problem.

In the major hurricane of 1821, all of lower Manhattan was under 13 feet of water.

Today, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out and said he was activating a command center, positioning boats and helicopters to rescue the stranded and preparing to shut down one of the the largest subway systems in the world if needed.

"We hope for the best, but we prepare for the worst," said Bloomberg. "That's why this city is, I think, ready for this weekend."

But critics say in the unlikely event that the city had to order major evacuations, the plans are not sufficient.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, says he is worried that New Yorkers themselves, many of whom live in high-rises and many of whom have never experienced a hurricane, are not ready either.

Redlener recommends that everyone in the path of the storm make sure to have enough food, water and medicine to last at least three days.

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