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Christie: Major Progress Being Made On Storm Recovery In New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie (Credit: CBS 2)

LITTLE FERRY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Saturday afternoon that a lot of work still remains to repair the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy, but tremendous progress has been made.

After a lot of devastation, Christie spoke with families throughout the state Saturday afternoon who are working on rebuilding.

“We have a long road ahead of us to get over the storm, but it doesn’t mean we have to do it alone,” Christie said. “We’ll work on it together.”

WATCH: Christie’s Saturday Briefing In Little Ferry

The focus, Christie said, needs to be on returning to normalcy.

“Tuesday, we woke up to just an incredible disaster, and Wednesday, we still tried to get our arms around how big it was. Well, on Thursday, we said it was time to forget about thinking backwards and now start thinking forwards,” Christie said.

As of Saturday, travel bans have been lifted for many barrier islands. And while a gasoline shortage persists – particularly in the northern part of the state – Christie has set up a rationing system that he said should go smoothly if everyone complies.

The odd-even rationing began at noon Saturday. Drivers with license plates ending in an even number will be allowed to buy gas on even-numbered days, and those with plates ending in an odd number can make gas purchases on odd-numbered days.

Christie has also released revise power restoration plans from the three major utility companies. PSE&G, JCPL and Atlantic City Electric have submitted restoration plans at the municipal level for the next two days in order to provide the best information possible to New Jersey homes and businesses.

As of Saturday, a total of 1.2 million customers were without customers, compared with 2.7 million back on Tuesday. Jersey Central Power & Light reports about 597,000 outages and PSE&G says they still have about 600,000 outages.

More than 8,000 workers from out of state were on the job Saturday in New Jersey, for a total of 11,000 workers dedicated to restoring power.

State officials also continued their work to ensure all residents received the aid they needed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Anyone who cannot get to a FEMA center is asked to call (800) 621-FEMA, and within 24 to 48 hours, a FEMA representative will come to the caller’s house to provide assistance and assess damage.

The state has also set up comfort stations providing food, power and other needs. About 6,500 people were in shelters as of Saturday, Christie said.

Meanwhile, 252 out of 589 school districts have reopened, and Christie has urged districts to “be creative” and do anything they can to get students back to school – including doubling up student bodies if necessary.

The governor says that if you are forced to stay with friends or relatives in another district, you should go to school there if you can’t make it to your home district. He added that schools should absorb these extra students for the time being.

Christie commended the state’s teachers’ union for canceling a convention and reopening for two instructional days next week. And he said the school year will not be shortened.

“We intend to stay committed to the 180-day instructional period,” he said.

And as for state roads, only five in any area continued to have closures as of Saturday. Previously, Route 35 was cut in half by the Atlantic Ocean, but was almost clear by Saturday, Christie said.

Rebuilding remains the largest, and longest step, the governor said.