SEA GIRT, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — From the lowest lying areas of the Jersey Shore, where residents were already being encouraged to leave, to the state’s northern highlands, where sandbags were being filled and cars moved into parking lots on high ground, New Jersey began preparing in earnest Friday for Hurricane Sandy.
On Friday night, CBS 2 severe weather expert Lonnie Quinn said the storm, still a Category 1 hurricane, would get stronger as it moved north. Quinn said that wind speeds would be near 80 mph as it approaches Virginia and between 65 and 75 mph when it makes landfall, likely somewhere in Delaware.
Quinn said that on its current track, the storm would be less than 100 miles from New York City by 8 p.m. Monday. He said the fact that the storm is 2,000 miles wide is a major problem that the area will be dealing with for a while.
On the boardwalk, CBS 2’s Emily Smith found piles of sandbags outside of one Point Pleasant Beach businesses along with miles of silt fencing and houses battened down in preparation for the storm.
While Point Pleasant Beach wasn’t immediately added to the list of voluntary evacuations, several towns along the Jersey Shore were.
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The Cape May County Emergency Management Office issued voluntary evacuation orders for Friday and Saturday for barrier islands. Those evacuation orders will become mandatory on Sunday.
In Ocean County, the beachfront town of Mantoloking also issued a voluntary evacuation order on Friday, and several other shore towns were considering doing likewise.
In Pompton Lakes, town workers were handing out sandbags to residents of flood-prone neighborhoods, and Manville planned to activate its reverse 911 system Friday night, urging people to take precautions as the storm drew nearer.
Governor Chris Christie, who was on his way back to the state from a political trip to North Carolina, urged residents to prepare for a “serious storm.”
Sandy has the potential to bring five inches of rain or more. New Jersey’s rivers are currently at or below normal levels, but it would only take four inches of rain to send them over their banks, officials said.
The slow, calm stream of the Passaic River was nice to look at Friday night, but for residents in low lying Little Falls, living just steps from the river’s banks is nerve wracking.
“We have to move all our furniture up to the second level…and find places to store everything,” Tammy Lamontanro told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
Tropical Storm Irene was still fresh on everyone’s mind, especially its wind, rain and flooding. Now, Hurricane Sandy is threatening to bring more devastation.
“That was horrendous for us, I mean these people down the block, they lose their houses, they lose everything,” Little Falls resident Danny Clark said.
“This could be a storm that many have never seen before, including myself,” said Jay Amberg, assistant to the borough administrator in Sea Girt.
Crews in Sea Girt were bolstering winter berms and quickly moving sand into mounds meant to protect the shore and the boardwalk.
“They will help diffuse the power of waves, save permanent dune structure,” Amberg said.
Sandy rolled out of the Bahamas on Friday after causing 40 deaths across the Caribbean, churning toward the U.S. East Coast, where it threatens to join forces with winter weather fronts to create a devastating super storm.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker was urging residents to stock up on supplies and prepare for the worst.
“The storm itself will be bad, but I worry about the aftermath — people being caught without power,” Booker said. “When you have power outages, it’s not just your ice cream is going to spoil. There are people with medical conditions. There are elderly. A lot of people rely on power.”
Utilities were gearing up. Outages that lasted for days after last year’s freak Halloween snowstorm and Hurricane Irene in late August 2011 have been pressuring power companies to be more ready this time.
Jersey Central Power & Light, which was criticized for its response to Irene, notified employees to be ready for extended shifts.
Public Service Electric and Gas was monitoring Sandy and stepping up emergency preparations. The utility requested more than 1,300 linemen and 600 tree contractors from utilities in other states for assistance.
Officials in Belmar were pumping water into the ocean from Silver Lake and Lake Como, a move residents like Ann Murphy hope will save their homes if Hurricane Sandy comes close.
While the ocean was calm heading into the weekend, many down the Jersey Shore were worried and were taking Sandy’s threat seriously.
“I am thinking this has the potential to be catastrophic with the storm surge. They’re predicting 10-foot storm surge. It’s going to be a full moon,” Belmar resident Jenny Hoffman told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
The local hardware store in Belmar was packed all day Friday with people coming by for storm necessities.
“Batteries, flashlights, generators, which we are sold out right now. A lot of propane,” Taylor Hardware store owner Joe Connor said.
Grocery stores were busy, too.
“I bought milk and bread, the normal things, and water. And hope it’s going to go to the west,” said Joanne Desheplo, of Belmar.
During Hurricane Irene, Belmar, Asbury Park and Spring Lake took a beating. This time around, crews in Asbury Park were taking trash cans off of the boardwalk.
“Irene posed some special problems we never encountered in terms of back-area rivers and streams that feed those bay areas because they flooded,” Monmouth County Sheriff Sean Dalton said.
From the city to the suburbs, people were bracing for the brunt of the storm.
In Hillsdale, just a year after getting hammered by Irene, Jerry Pasinski said he expected to suffer once again.
“I’ve seen the heartache,” he told CBS 2’s Steve Langford.
Suffering residents in the North Bergen community said the situation could be alleviated if the Woodcliff Lake reservoir were lowered ahead of the storm. It was expected to turn the tiny brook into a torrent of tragedy.
But it’s up to the state of New Jersey to issue that order and as of early Friday evening, the state had not committed to sparing the homeowners unnecessary misery.
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