Residents of Morris Cove, the coastal neighborhood in the southeast corner of New Haven, now have just a few short hours before they are in violation of Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s mandatory evacuation order in anticipation of Hurricane Irene’s landfall.

In a joint press conference at an East Shore firehouse with East Haven Mayor April Capone, DeStefano warned residents of the flood-prone neighborhood that waves of up to 14 feet and gusts of up to 75 m.p.h. could cause streets to be impassable, making it difficult for emergency and public safety personnel to respond to calls in the area. Morris Cove residents are ordered to evacuate by 7:30 p.m. today, he said.

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“If you stay behind, you are subjecting yourselves and your families to unnecessary risk,” DeStefano said, wearing his rain boots as clouds gathered overhead.

Other sections of the city will likely experience flooding, DeStefano said, including West River, Westville and Quinnipiac, but because of Morris Cove’s geographic isolation from the city, emergency personnel will have a much harder time reaching residents there.

The primary concern of city officials as they prepare for what may be the worst storm to hit New Haven since 1985’s Hurricane Gloria is flooding due to storm surges, said Rob Smuts, the city’s chief administrative officer. Flooding during Irene will likely be exacerbated by a lunar high tide at 11:06 tomorrow morning, just five minutes after the storm is projected to make landfall, Smuts said.

Capone urged East Haven residents along the coastline to evacuate as well, though she did not issue a mandatory evacuation order.

“I’ve had folks call and ask ‘What do you think, do you think I should evacuate?'” Capone said, adding, “if you’re asking the question, then yes, you should.”

Smuts said crews have been deployed to prepare key emergency routes around the city for potential obstructions due to debris from Irene’s winds.

The city is distributing a flyer informing Morris Cove and East Shore residents of exactly which streets are covered by the mandatory evacuation order. Two shelters have opened at the Jepson School at 15 Lexington Avenue and the King-Robinson School at 154 Fournier Street. City spokesman Adam Joseph wrote in a press release that evacuated families will likely be able to return to their homes when the storm passes Sunday.

“This will be at worst an inconvenience, and at at best we will have acted prudently to protect lives,” DeStefano said.