As Hurricane Joaquin veers seaward, NJ officials still counsel vigilance

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Sea Isle City streets began flooding Friday morning as high tide rolled in. (Joe Hernandez/WHYY)

Sea Isle City streets began flooding Friday morning as high tide rolled in. (Joe Hernandez/WHYY)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who took a break from his presidential campaign this week to coordinate storm preparation efforts in South Jersey, said it could have been worse if Hurricane Joaquin had not changed course and started moving out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The streets of Sea Isle City began to flood Friday morning. Trees bent to one side under gusty winds. Drivers threw on their car flashers and exited the island.

But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who took a break from his presidential campaign this week to coordinate storm preparation efforts in South Jersey, said it could have been worse if Hurricane Joaquin had not changed course and started moving out into the Atlantic Ocean, likely sparing the state a direct hit.

“We know what happens when we don’t get lucky. We’ve lived through that. None of us want to live through that again,” Christie said, evoking the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall in New Jersey three years ago this month.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed, say our prayers where appropriate. Hopefully in the next 48 hours, we’ll be counting our blessings that we dodged a bullet on this one,” he said.

Although the forecast is calling for Hurricane Joaquin to have a minimal effect on New Jersey, a nor’easter headed up the East Coast will bring heavy rain to parts of South Jersey through Saturday.

Christie said low-lying areas in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem counties can expect flooding.

That’s why residents should still take precautions and make contingency plans, in case the power goes out or the weather worsens, advised U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey.

“Pay attention to the news. Be prepared,” he said. “Don’t be stupid about anything, and don’t take any risks.”

NWJHnjfloodchristiex600New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie discusses preparations for a nor’easter and Hurricane Joaquin. (Joe Hernandez/WHYY)Christie echoed those warnings and told residents to have a plan in place.

“If you lose power, if there’s some flooding, where are you going to go? Where are you going to go to be safe and warm?” he said.

In light of Joaquin’s apparent near-miss of New Jersey, Christie also took the opportunity to chastise residents who have been opposing post-Sandy beach protection projects. He said this weekend’s close call should refocus attention on protections from future storms.

Christie singled out Margate, a town just south of Atlantic City, which has fought the proposed construction of beachfront dunes.

“You are amongst the most selfish people in the state of New Jersey,” he said. “And if this hurricane had come to shore, the damage that would have been done to lives and property in Margate, I hope it’s worth the vanity act you’re all engaging in.”

Christie said shelters will be open for anyone who may need them over the weekend, but said residents should first reach out to friends or family in the area.

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