D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) declared a state of emergency Friday evening, and the city has identified four emergency shelters that could open on Saturday for residents who may need shelter from Hurricane Irene.
Although Gray emphasized current weather forecasts for the District appear mild compared to coastal areas, he urged all residents to prepare for possible power outages and flooding.
Gray held an emergency meeting with his cabinet and officials from the D.C. National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency Friday afternoon to discuss storm preparations. He said the city’s emergency operations center will activated at 7 a.m. Saturday.
“We are fully deployed and we think we are ready as best we can be for this,” Gray said at a news conference following the meeting.
Most non-essential city buildings and activities are canceled Saturday, but D.C. public libraries and the D.C Department of Motor Vehicles are to operate on normal schedules.
The city is also said that its overnight homeless shelters, which normally close at 7 a.m., will stay open around-the-clock for the storm.
If evacuations are needed or residents need to relocate to a safer location, Gray said four recreational centers would be available as temporary shelters.
The city also plans to broadcast continual storm updates and safety information on Channel 16 starting at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Gray said an official emergency declaration, which is currently being drafted by the office of the city’s attorney general, will likely be issued Friday afternoon.
“This has been the most unusual week in the District,” Gray said. “We started with an earthquake and are apparently finishing with a hurricane.”