Gov. Chris Christie has a message for New Jersey residents doubting the severity of the Hurricane Sandy forecast: prepare for the worst. The governor declared a weather-related state of emergency before holding a press conference in front of the East Keansburg Fire Company in North Middletown on Saturday morning.
“We should not assume the predictions should be wrong,” Christie said “When the storm comes, if it’s as bad as they're predicting it will be, you’re going to wish you weren’t as cynical as you might have otherwise been. I’m not trying to be an alarmist here. I want everybody to be ready. I want your families to be safe and I want us to be able to do our jobs the right way.”
Christie ordered the mandatory evacuation of Barrier Island residents from Ocean County through Cape May County by 4 p.m. on Sunday. Eastbound roadways leading to Barrier Islands will be closed at that time. Atlantic City casinos must also be evacuated by Sunday afternoon.
Other shoreline residents may want to consider leaving voluntarily if it makes sense for them to do so, according to Christie.
“Certainly, I think folks along the shoreline who are not on the Barrier Islands should consider voluntary evacuation. That’s going to be based on do they have friends or relatives to evacuate to,” he said. I don’t think at this point these are people who are going to need to evacuate to shelters.”
Christie noted that Hurricane Sandy was expected to stay in the area for a longer period of time than Irene, leading to the possibility of a more severe impact on the state than the August 2011 hurricane.
“Irene came in and left pretty quickly. This is not scheduled to come in and leave quickly. If we really have sustained hurricane-force winds along the shoreline for 48 hours or 60 hours, we’re going to be looking at some pretty severe damage to the shore,” Christie said.
In preparation for the storm, the governor ordered four reservoir systems in northern New Jersey to be drawn down Friday evening and for releases to be made from Pompton Lake and Lake Hopatcong. Shelters will be established in 18 of the state’s 21 counties with the capacity for 12,000 residents, and if required, five state locations can be opened as shelters with the capacity for an additional 5,000 residents, according to Christie. New Jersey residents who evacuate their homes should seek shelter with family and friends and only use the county- and state-run shelters as a last resort, the governor said.
After leading the state through a severe December 2010 snowstorm, Hurricane Irene, and a sudden snowstorm last October, Christie said he and state emergency response leaders believe they are ready to issue swift response to Hurricane Sandy.
“I feel like the disaster governor,” Christie joked. “For better or worse, we can speak about this in shorthand now. We’ve gone through this stuff before. It doesn’t mean we’re going to get everything right, but what it means is we think we’re anticipating all the right things.”