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LONG BRANCH, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The first rain and wind from Hurricane Irene arrived in New Jersey by midday Saturday, and by the evening,thousands of evacuees headed to local shelters to wait out the storm.
“We are providing meals. We’re trying to make it as pleasant for people as possible,” Michael Salvatore, Long Branch Schools Superintendent, told CBS 2′s Kristin Thorne.
The dozens of volunteers at the emergency shelter in Long Branch Middle School, aside from providing food and shelter, are working to keep the more than 300 temporary residents calm.
“Anything I can do to make folks, you know, more comfortable. They’re very, very stressed. It’s a very, very scary time,” Nurse Pat said.
“I’ve been very impressed with the preparedness, not only in Long Branch, but in the other towns as well,” said Rep. Frank Pallone of Long Branch. “I think everyone is taking it very serious, and they’re really impressing on people that they should leave if they’re in a mandatory evacuation area.”
“I can’t wait to get back home. It might not be too bad, but just in case, I’m in a safe place,” said resident Brenda Pruitt.
“We have no shelter. We have no where else. The house is old. So we decided to come here. We’re from Jamaica. We’re working in the U.S.” said Delzieann Bernard of Long Beach.
Those stranded with pets in evacuation areas can also bring their furry friends with them to shelters.
LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Levon Putney reports
“If you have your pets, bring them with you and shelters will be able to work on accommodating them when they need to,” said Christie. “We’ll have other animal shelters that are available.”
Governor Chris Christie reminded pet owners to make sure they have pet supplies with them.
“Bring supplies with you to deal with your pets,” said Christie. “I can’t believe as governor I actually have to say this, but bring the kitty litter and the litter box.”
He also says don’t forget pet food and the pooper scooper.
CHRISTIE CALLS EVACUATIONS “SUCCESSFUL”
At a news conference Saturday afternoon, Christie said that most residents in the state were heeding his previous warnings about evacuating the most vulnerable areas.
“The good news is people heeded my subtle advice yesterday. They are off the beach. People have left the shore, the evacuation process has been successful. Over a million people have left the Jersey Shore in the last 24 hours,” Christie said.
The governor’s comments alluded to his strong words Friday evening, in which he sternly ordered people to “get the hell off the beach.”
“We have now, according to Ocean County officials, 95 percent of Long Beach Island is vacated. There are a few remaining residents who have refused to evacuate, but 95 percent of those folks on Long Beach Island are evacuted,” Christie said.
Christie also said that people should have at least 5 days of food on hand. He said that the impact from Irene could cause power outages lasting a “significant amount of time” because of the rain, winds and potential for uprooted trees.
JERSEY CITY, HOBOKEN MAYORS MAKE PLEA
Meanwhile, the mayors of Jersey City and Hoboken made a plea for their city’s residents to play it safe and heed evacuation warnings for their “own personal safety” during Hurricane Irene.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is asking all residents to voluntarily leave the city and requiring those with basement apartments to evacuate.
“We do not have the resources to go around and demand that absolutely everyone is out of their apartments, but we’re trying to tell them as adamantly as we can, please leave for your own personal safety,” Zimmer told CBS 2.
Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy said that while evacuations were not yet mandatory, conditions on the ground could change that at some point.
“This is something that all the experts are saying is unprecedented so we’re telling them to get out and that may become mandatory,” Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy told 1010 WINS.
Healy also said that Jersey City residents are being asked to not drive their cars after 7 p.m. Saturday night, adding that the warning may become mandatory after midnight.
PRESIDENT DECLARES EMERGENCY
President Barack Obama declared an emergency in New Jersey and ordered federal assistance to supplement the state’s response to Hurricane Irene.
The action allows federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide emergency equipment and other resources as needed.
“First, I want to thank President Obama, who issued a presidential emergency declaration in response to our request,” Christie said. “New Jersey now has access to federal dollars, which is a great help.”
A storm surge could raise water levels by 3 to 6 feet along the seacoast and the Raritan and Delaware bays. The effect could be even bigger if the storm arrives, as expected, in conjunction with an abnormally high tide around dawn Sunday.
Six to 10 inches of rain is expected to cause flooding along rivers and streams all over New Jersey. Many of them already were swollen after a rainy August.
All New Jersey Transit trains and PATH trains shut down at noon Saturday due to the strong winds and potential flooding that Irene is likely to bring with her.
However, New Jersey Transit buses were being pressed into use to move residents who had no other way out of Atlantic City to the Sun Center arena in Trenton, which was being set up as a staging area. People brought there Friday night were expected to be bused to shelters elsewhere Saturday.
The southern half of the Garden State Parkway, Ocean County’s Route 72 and two of Cape May County’s main roads — Routes 47 and 347 were made one-way only to make keep people from heading to the shore and to offer more lanes for those heading out.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)