TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Chris Christie delivered a stern warning Friday to New Jersey residents and tourists, urging them to heed warnings and evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Irene.
“The most important bit of advice I can give to any of the 8.8 million citizens of this state is think — don’t react — think. Think about what you need to do to protect your life and the life of your family,” the governor said at a news conference.
As for those people who were still on New Jersey beaches earlier Friday evening, Christie sternly ordered them to “get the hell off the beach.” The governor delivered that message both in his news conference and via Twitter.
1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan With More On Christie’s Warnings
The governor also advised people in the Garden State to help one another battle through the heavy rains and strong winds expected to come with Irene.
“New Jerseyans have to help other New Jerseyans. You have to repair yourself and you have to be prepared to help your neighbors and your friends and your colleagues and your relatives,” Christie said, adding “there’s never a government big enough to take care of 8.8 million people one by one.”
The governor also lamented earlier that he heard “some dopes on television” saying a Category 2 hurricane was “nothing more than a bad thunderstorm.”
As of 7 p.m. Friday, Irene began hitting the East Coast with fierce winds and rain. Tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph were already hitting the Carolinas as Irene continued to spin her way toward New Jersey.
WHAT CAN NEW JERSEY EXPECT?
Forecasters say Irene is expected to produce 6 to 10 inches of rain in New Jersey, with isolated amounts of up to 15 inches.
National Weather Service projections made it look likely that the storm would hit New Jersey as a hurricane sometime Sunday. If that happens, New Jersey state climatologist David Robinson says, it would be only the third hurricane to make landfall in the state in at least 200 years.
And forecasters warned that even if the eye of the storm skirts the already rain-soaked state, severe floods, fallen trees and downed power lines are nearly assured.
The National Hurricane Center is predicting storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 3 to 6 feet above ground level along the Jersey shore. This would be accompanied by large waves.
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for coastal New Jersey earlier Friday.
1010 WINS’ John Montone reports: Irene Is Coming. Are You Ready?
WHAT IRENE MEANS FOR TRANSPORTATION
The Garden State Parkway was closed southbound of Exit 98 as of 8 p.m. on Friday night.
Gov. Christie also ordered that tolls on the Atlantic City Expressway and the southern stretch of the Garden State Parkway be waived in order to speed evacuations.
He said all Atlantic City gaming would be shut down at noon Saturday and all eastbound traffic to Atlantic City will be closed starting at 6 p.m. Friday.
New Jersey Transit and PATH trains will also stop running at noon Saturday because of the storm.
“Service will resume as soon as conditions permit. The system is being closed to passengers so that trains and stations can be secured in advance of the storm, and protected against damage from high winds and water,” the Port Authority said in a statement.
BELMAR MAYOR LAMENTS ECONOMIC LOSS
Meanwhile, in Belmar, where windows were taped and many homes were empty, one bar in the business district across the the beach was packed.
It seemed as though some residents were inclined to celebrate one more night before police moved in to step up enforcement of a mandatory evacuation.
Resident Don Rodgers told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin that he would “be here…as long as we can be and get out.”
Belmar’s Mayor said his chief concern was the safety of residents and visitors. He also expressed worries about Irene’s big blow to the economy.
“We do not want to lose a weekend or two or even a whole season,” Mayor Matt Doherty said.
TAKING PRECAUTIONS IN HOBOKEN
In Hoboken, authorities ordered that licensed vendors stop serving alcohol by 8 p.m. on Saturday. The city also announced that driving cars, including taxis will be prohibited after 8 p.m. Saturday.
“Residents are reminded to evacuate Hoboken as soon as possible and not underestimate Hurricane Irene. Flooding can be very widespread and severe. The city has declared a state of emergency,” a statement from the city read.
“This could be the most severe storm that Hoboken has ever faced — depending on when it hits and the final trajectory, it literally could be flooding our entire city,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer told 1010 WINS.
HEEDING WARNINGS ON THE JERSEY SHORE
Despite Friday’s glorious sunrise, Irene will soon plunge the Jersey Shore into frothy chaos, a bubbling cauldron of rain, wind and waves.
People on vacation,are heeding the warnings by packing up, boarding up and heading inland.
WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron In West Long Branch
Seaside Park lifeguard captain Joe Gamulca said be afraid. He witnessed Hurricane Belle’s storm surge in 1976.
“It covered the beach completely in a matter of, I’d say, less than a half hour, and then all of a sudden started to come under the boardwalk. I actually was very scared,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. “So, if you’re anywhere near that water, you’re definitely not making it back. It’s taking you with it.”
Even with Irene on the way, some locals said they would hold out to the end.
“If we know that it’s definitely a mandatory evacuation, what we do is we get everything off the floor, any kind of floor, raise everything up. If we have to, we’ll board up the front,” Formosa said.
Nearly 1 million people in New Jersey are subject to mandatory evacuation orders, Atlantic City’s 24-7 casinos are preparing for their third-ever shutdown and several waterways are facing flood risks, giving Hurricane Irene a historic impact on the state more than 48 hours before the storm is expected to hit.
NATIONAL GUARD PUT ON STANDBY
Christie has called in the National Guard to be on standby, just in case things get really bad.
WCBS 880’s Levon Putney: The National Guard Is Ready
“The majority of our team of army and air is within the state,” said Army Gen. Glenn Reith.
Rieth said they have more than 6,000 soldiers ready to help at a moment’s notice.
“What they will probably be initially engaged in is just moving people with very capable high water vehicles,” he said, adding that they have UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters on standby to rescue anyone stranded after the storm passes.
“I’ve been going to their houses to assure them they would be taken out by morning,” said Jack Casella of Beach Haven First Aid.