New Zealanders living in New York were last night taping down windows and sitting tight as the hurricane hit.

The usually bustling streets of the Big Apple were deserted as thousands of people were either evacuated or hunkered down. Kiwis living there described the city as a ghost town.

Wellingtonian actress Geraldine Johns, who has been working in the US for four years, told Kerre Woodham's NewstalkZB radio show that residents had been boarding up their homes and apartments.

Ms Johns - who lives in a Lower East Side loft in Manhattan - said maps had been distributed showing which parts of the city were safe to stay in. Those living in other parts were given a mandatory evacuation order.

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"I've got four people coming over, who have been evacuated ... we're taping the windows now. We've filled the bath full of water in case we can't flush the toilet.

"People are kind of freaking out, I've got to say, it's quite scary. Everyone's walking down the street with water, containers and food and rations for the next few days."

Gareth Hughes, who grew up in Glen Eden, now lives in Brooklyn with partner Gemma Gracewood and 8-year-old son Daniel. He said many people had over-prepared themselves, stocking up on food and water or evacuating.

"It's raining now but the peak isn't expected to be until around 6am [10pm yesterday, NZT].

"We've brought some extra alcohol, we've got lots of water, lots of food. We'll be all right for a week."

Mr Hughes, who owns the Down Under Bakery Pies store, kept his shop open all through Saturday despite other store owners shutting their doors. He planned to open again today if the storm blew over quickly.

One News correspondent Tim Wilson said people had been quick to stock up on essential items. "I tried to buy a torch earlier today and went to four stores to do so," he told the Herald. "There was no water in the store right opposite my place."