TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency late Friday, as parts of New Jersey were expected to be hit hard by an approaching winter storm with likely coastal flooding.
Most of New Jersey is now under a blizzard warning. The warning is in effect from Friday evening until Sunday and calls for from 4 to 14 inches of snow, with the deepest accumulations in the central part of the state.
A winter storm warning covers Passaic, Bergen, Cumberland, Atlantic, Warren, Morris, Hunterdon and Cape May counties. Sussex County is under a watch.
As of 11 p.m. Friday, 3 inches of snow or more had already fallen in parts of New Jersey. It could fall in some areas at the rate of 1 to 3 inches an hour on Saturday.
A coastal flood warning is in effect from Ocean County south, where many officials are concerned about the combination of powerful winds mixed with a lunar high tide.
Christie announced late Friday that he had signed the state of emergency, which gives him certain special authorities for such acts as closing roads. The governor noted that while the storm would be major, the state has seen far worse.
“This is going to be a significant storm, but nowhere near the kinds of storms that we’ve dealt with over the last six years,” Christie said.
Christie noted that the central and southern parts of New Jersey were likely to get the highest snow totals, which could amount to 2 feet. To the north, 6 to 12 inches were expected.
Winds as high as 25 to 45 mph were also expected, and while coastal flooding was also a serious risk, mandatory evacuation orders by the state were not anticipated, Christie said. But local evacuation orders were issued.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation was under a shelter-in-place order, wherein they will be working around the clock, Christie said. The governor advised that people should stay put.
“The smartest thing for you to do on Saturday afternoon would be to stay home,” he said. “Stay where you are.”
The state has also brought in 228,000 tons of salt, and all the major roadways has been brined ahead of time, Christie said.
NJ TRANSIT was also to suspend service around 2 a.m. Saturday, resuming when conditions are deemed safe, Christie said. Alternate travel modes will cross-honor NJ TRANSIT tickets, Christie said.
On Friday afternoon, Barnegat officials declared a local state of emergency and issued a mandatory evacuation notice for all residents between the Barnegat Municipal Bathing Beach and the East Bay Avenue Bridge.
Residents were told to evacuate the area no later than 10 p.m. Friday.
As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, Glenn Hillegass packed up and headed out after the Barnegat Office of Emergency Management and local police department declared a local state of emergency, and issued a mandatory evacuation notice this afternoon for all residents along the water.
“We were down here for Sandy and there was about four feet of water which came through here, so I think it’s a good measure to get out,” Hillegass said.
Hillegass said Sandy was the last time had to evacuate.
Despite worries of high winds and flooding along East Bay Avenue, others such as Don Piana and his son ignored evacuation orders. Piana said he would ride out the storm, even it if meant being stuck in Barnegat Bay.
”We spoke to the officer from Barnegat PD who is already down there directing traffic, and basically he told us he can’t drag us out of our own house,” Piana said. “We have a generator. We have heat. We have enough water.”
Meanwhile, the Jersey Central Power and Light line shop in Union Beach was ground zero Friday for crews and state officials as they prepared for the impending storm.
The utility was not sugarcoating anything – the snowstorm will be serious, with strong winds and possible flooding along Jersey Shore communities.
And JCPL was in emergency mode, with extra hazard crews and protections and substations. But there was no guarantee that there would not be power outages, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported.
“We cannot put our linemen up in a bucket when winds are sustained over 40 miles an hour,” said Jim Fakult of JCPL.
Thus, Fakult advised that people must be prepared.
“Have water on hand, have some supplies – flashlights, batteries radios,” he said.
Christie advised that in case of power outages, people also should be sure they have plenty of water, nonperishable food, cold-weather clothing, and fully-charged cellphones. Anyone who needs medications or electrically-powered equipment for medical reasons should plan on finding a way to get assistance, Christie said.
In Manasquan, former Mayor and Office of Emergency Management Deputy George Dempsey said the most flood prone streets are near the inlet where the ocean meets the bay and the Manasquan River.
“Pipes drain out to oceans, creeks and when we have moon tide, openings get covered and then more flooding,” he told CBS2’s Meg Baker.
Many homes along the shore have been raised since the devastating flooding from Superstorm Sandy three years ago.
“I’m not really too worried,” Sea Bright resident Christine told 1010 WINS’ John Montone. “If you complain about the water and the flooding, this is not the place for you to live.”
But many homeowners and business owners in Sea Bright were not taking any chances.
“You take all the precautions you can, right?” said Tom Brown of Sea Bright. “I put boards up and got everything up out of the yard.”
“I’ve got my sand bags ready to go,” said Philip Pink of Monmouth Beach, “All furniture is in.”
Indeed, for everyone in Sea Bright, it was a rush against the clock. Businesses were moving everything out on main streets, from furniture to art.
“The gallery owner called and said she was concerned — come down and get your stuff,” said Nicole Vincenti.
“When we took this space over, we had the thought that one day this might happen, and it’s better to take these products out than risk losing them,” said Mike Ingals of Ingals Custom Contracting.
Sandbags were placed in front of storefronts in the vulnerable town, which sits between the ocean and the Shrewsbury River. Officials hoped the sand dunes would protect residents from flooding.
But Sea Bright resident and restaurant owner Alice Gaffney was fearful nonetheless.
“It is very nerve-wracking,” Gaffney said. “Especially – I live in town too, and I have my house to worry about, and I take care of my nana, who’s 100, so I just hope we don’t lose power.”
Frank Bain of Bain’s Hardware in Sea Bright marked the Sandy water line at 4 feet, 3 inches and he knows it can happen again.
“You’ve got to respect this forecast, you’ve got to respect what happens in the storms,” he said. “It’s way too familiar for everybody in Sea Bright.”
In Monmouth County, Sheriff Shaun Golden is asking residents to stay alert to the forecast.
“Have batteries for flash lights, phones charged up, basic food supplies,” he said.
And in Belmar, Mayor Matt Doherty surveyed the beach Thursday with a drone.
“Some of the dunes have taken a beating over the course of the winter, so that’s all going to get strengthened,” he said.
His main concern is not snowfall or precipitation, but is on the beach with a dangerous combination of a lunar high tide and strong winds.
“If you live in low-lying area, move your car to higher area,” he said. “We believe there is a high probability of flooding on the streets, moderate probability of flooding into people’s homes.”
Flooding on the back side of barrier strips is expected too.
“We have Zodiac boats, jet skis and high water vehicles, you know those big Army trucks,” Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams.
Schools in Toms River are on stand by in case they need shelters.
And it’s not just the Jersey shore. There are also flooding concerns in Hoboken.
A flood warning has not been issued for the densely populated Mile Square City, but Mayor Dawn Zimmer warns that could change.
“So we are going to be ready to put out an announcement to our residents,” she told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
Long term plans are in the works for protection against coastal storm surge, but in the meantime, a shelter at the Welles Elementary School is on standby and the Port Authority has boarded up the entrance to the elevator at the PATH station.
Christie, who initially said Friday that he was monitoring the snowstorm from the presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire, returned to the Garden State in the afternoon.
“I’m sorry, NH but I gotta go home – we got snow coming,” he said on Twitter. “I want to make sure the people of my state feel safe and secure.”
At his news conference late Friday, Christie said it was not clear a night earlier whether the storm would strike New Jersey and require his immediate attention.
“The circumstances got worse, and clarified, so as soon as it did I came home. If the storm blew out to see and I came home, I’d look pretty stupid,” he said. “The fact is that you make the decision when you have clarity on what the circumstances are going to be.”
He maintained that he had always planned to come home if he needed to do so.
“I got here before one flake fell on the ground any place where we are,” he said.
The governor had earlier faced criticism from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others Friday for staying in New Hampshire as the storm approaches.
Christie had been scheduled to remain in New Hampshire through the weekend. He said Friday he was canceling campaign events Friday and Saturday because of the weather, but New Jersey’s first lady Mary Pat would stay in New Hampshire.
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