NEW YORK -- New York City announced the closings of it mass transit and school systems, both the nation's largest, and ordered residents to leave some low-lying areas Sunday ahead of the massive storm approaching the eastern third of the U.S.
"A situation like this, you don't want to be overly panicked and overly prepared, but you want to be prudent, you want to do what's necessary," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday in announcing the suspension of the city's subways, buses and commuter trains.
Rainfall is expected to start late Sunday or early Monday in New York. Hurricane Sandy was headed north from the Caribbean to meet a winter storm and a cold front, and experts said the rare hybrid storm that results will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.
With a daily ridership of more than 5 million, New York City's subway system is by far the largest in the U.S. Many New Yorkers do not have cars and depend on subways and buses to get to work, school and around town.
The city's school system, which serves 1.1 million students, will be closed Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. He also ordered an evacuation of parts of lower Manhattan and the Rockaways, a low-lying area of Queens.
"If you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you," he said at a news conference Sunday. "... This is a serious and dangerous storm."
Cuomo said the transit system will be suspended starting at 7 p.m. Sunday, when the last subways and final Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter trains would run. The last buses will run at 9 p.m. He said the decision to shut down the area's bridges and tunnels would be made on a case-by-case basis.
It was the second weather-related suspension of the city's transit system in two years. Service was also suspended during Tropical Storm Irene last year.
Witlet Maceno, an emergency room nurse working at Manhattan's Mount Sinai Hospital, was headed home to Staten Island on Sunday morning after his overnight shift.
He said he was going home to check on his parents, visiting from Atlanta, before he returns to work Sunday evening.
"I'm making sure they're OK, that they have water and food, and that the windows are shut tight," he said. "And I'm going to remove stuff outside that could go flying into the windows" of his street-level apartment.
He said he's counting on the security guard at his gated community to respond to any emergency his parents might have, since the house telephone is linked to a combined TV and Internet line that could be knocked out.
"I don't have a regular landline," he said. "But I think they'll be OK."
Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik and Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.