NEW YORK - (AP) - New York City officials say they're preparing for the total shutdown of the nation's largest mass transit system.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says officials expect to shut down thecity's entire transit system at some point Saturday afternoon aheadof the arrival of Hurricane Irene, which is now forecasted tostrike eastern Queens. He says service likely won't be availableagain until sometime Monday or perhaps later.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder saysthat the system can't be safely operated with sustained winds of 39mph or more. He says it will take at least eight hours to move allMTA equipment from low-lying storage areas and secure trains inprotected areas, including in the system's underground tunnels.

Bloomberg is urging residents of the city's low-lying areas tobegin evacuating tomorrow. He'll decide whether to issue a formalevacuation order by 8 a.m.


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National Hurricane Center