New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says that he and his administration are better prepared to deal with the approaching double punch of a nor’easter and Hurricane Joaquin in the next few days because of lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy.
Christie declared a state of emergency Thursday ahead of the storm that is expected to bring heavy rain and flooding. The declaration will allow state and county government to manage the storm, including the possibility of Hurricane Joaquin affecting the state.
While it’s too soon to know whether the hurricane will have a direct impact on the state, Christie warned of coastal flooding Friday and Saturday. The immediate threat, he said, is from a nor’easter that may cause flooding in Cape May, Atlantic, Salem, and Cumberland counties.
“Whether or not Joaquin is a direct issue for New Jersey by Monday, we know that there is definitely going to be moderate — and likely to be major — flooding events in South Jersey on Friday and Saturday with 5 to 6 inches of rainfall expected to come over those two days,” he said.
Christie said the state is conducting ‘slosh modeling’ to see how far inland water could get based upon flooding and storm surge.
“That will have a large part in determining whether or not in areas in Cape May and Atlantic and maybe in Cumberland and Salem will flood where we might have to order some evacuations,” he said. “We’re not there yet and if we are going to be there, my guess us we’ll be there in the next 12 to 24 hours and we’ll let people know.”
Berating the holdouts
Christie used the pre-Joaquin window to take a swipe at holdouts on the Jersey Shore who have stood in the way of the state’s completion of a protective dune system.
Breaks in that system are due to residents who would not grant easements for construction because they’re concerned about their ocean view, he said.
“So the folks in Margate today who are now in the eye of this flooding, I wonder if they think it was a smart move to be fighting doing this,” he said. “I wonder if the folks in Bay Head and Point Pleasant think it was a smart move now to be fighting the dunes.”
No need to wonder in Mantoloking where Christopher Niebling is deputy chief of the town’s Office of Emergency Management. He said most residents of the town are unhappy with those holdouts.
“The vast majority of us are critical of the people who have not signed easements. It’s politically a hot potato,” he said. “I know, there’s a lot of feeling about it, but we need to have it.”
A $40 million steel sea wall built after Sandy will help protect the town that was particularly hard hit by the superstorm three years ago, but protective dunes would have made that more effective, he said.
Christie said the state’s Department of Environmental Protection was busy adding sand in places where dunes have not been built.
Prepare, don’t panic
As the region waits, Christie told residents to prepare, but not to panic. He said he’s cancelling his public campaign events in New Hampshire to stay in New Jersey at least through Tuesday to focus on dealing with the storms.
Former cabinet members who served during Sandy are subject to be recalled to help with this weekend’s storm, the governor said.
Flood warnings and watches are in effect up and down the New Jersey coast already and rain is expected to begin again Thursday.
The latest National Hurricane Center forecast shows the hurricane coming up the East Coast and hitting Long Island as a tropical storm early Tuesday. A forecast earlier Thursday morning showed the storm hitting New Jersey as a tropical storm.
New Jersey’s state climatologist David Robinson said even if the storm heads out to sea, it would mean rough surf and erosion. The Shore is expected to be hammered by continued wind and rains even before Joaquin arrives.
But Robinson said, even in the worst-case scenario, the storm will not be as severe as Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Shore in 2012. It was blamed for at least 182 deaths and $65 billion in damage in the U.S.
The weather service warns people to be prepared for rising water levels and not to drive through flood waters.
Reporting from Phil Gregory and the Associated Press contributed to this report
He says most of the town’s residents are critical of homeowners who haven’t granted easements needed for that beach restoration work.
“The vast majority of us are critical of the people who have not signed easements. It’s politically a hot potato. I know there’s a lot of feeling about it, but we need to have it.”