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LONG BEACH, N.Y.
Long Island residents in the path of Hurricane Irene girded for wind, rain and flooding as the storm stood poised to bear down on an already saturated New York state.
Near the island's eastern tip, 86-year-old Ed Hayward took his daily one-mile stroll in East Marion under blue skies and said his family's only concern is the potential for property damage.
"We're not going to leave. Everyone is just sitting tight," he said.
In Long Beach, closer to New York City, some people were duct-taping their windows and carrying canned goods home along the boardwalk. But joggers and bicyclists were out enjoying that last bit of sun before the storm's anticipated arrival Sunday.
The National Weather Service predicted the storm's eye will pass over central Long Island in Suffolk County.
As of midday Friday, the hurricane warning area covered a large chunk of the East Coast from North Carolina to Sandy Hook, N.J., south of New York City. A hurricane watch extended farther north and included Long Island and Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and directed state agencies to prepare to help, and officials across the region were warning residents to gather basic supplies.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and other elected officials asked for voluntary evacuations of beach communities on western Fire Island, a popular summer destination. They're monitoring the storm to determine whether to call for a mandatory evacuation Friday.
New York's Emergency Management Office urged residents to secure lawn furniture, hanging plants and other items that would become projectiles in hurricane-force conditions. Many New Yorkers should be prepared for 24 to 72 hours in which they may not have outside help, spokesman Dennis Michalski said.
Thousands of New York Army National Guard soldiers could be deployed quickly this weekend if needed, said spokesman Lt. Col. Rich Goldenberg. The state's Army and Air National Guard units have high-axle vehicles that can navigate flooded streets, as well as cargo planes and helicopters.
On Long Island, the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard in Westhampton Beach is moving its six Blackhawks and four C-130 aircraft used for search-and-rescue missions out of the storm's path, planning to make them available in the aftermath.
Paula Lombardi of Worcester, Mass., arrived by ferry Friday at Long Island's Orient Point to visit with her daughter and 5-year-old granddaughter in Sag Harbor.
While "I'm one of those people who likes things planned and safe," Lombardi said she'd "do anything" for her children.
"If anything happens, it happens to all of us," she said.
Associated Press writers Stephen Singer in Orient Point, N.Y., Samantha Gross in New York City and Michael Hill and Michael Virtanen in Albany contributed to this report.