Sandy is lashing the Jersey Shore; A.C. gets hit hard [UPDATE]

[UPDATE 6:40 p.m.] As Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Jersey Shore south of Atlantic City, Gov. Chris Christie spoke publicly to advised people in the storm’s path to “hunker down” until morning, when rescue crews will once again venture out.

With sustained winds more than 80 m.p.h., Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Jersey Shore south of Atlantic City minutes ago. Gov. Chris Christie advised people in the storm’s path to “hunker down” until morning, when rescue crews will once again venture out.

The governor said conditions in the storm’s path have become too dangerous to permit rescue crews to work. Currently 348,500 homes in New Jersey are without power, he said.

As of this afternoon, about 2,800 people were in shelters throughout the state, Christie said. County shelters have not reached capacity, he stated. He advised residents to use the state as the last stop after friends and family and city services. Residents can check nj211.org to find shelter locations by county.

“If you are in the barrier islands, do not try to get out now,” Christie said. “The flooding is significant and you are putting yourself in danger [if you try to get out].”

Christie repeatedly admonished residents who have not evacuated coastal areas. “I’m very disappointed some decided to ignore my order [to evacuate],” he said.

The governor also blamed Atlantic City’s mayor Lorenzo Langford for encouraging hundreds of people to stay in shelters on the barrier island rather than moving inland.

He said 509 of more than 580 New Jersey school districts will be closed tomorrow. “I hope the rest of them will follow suit as soon as possible,” he said.

The state’s health department is receiveing ambulances donated from other states. He thanked Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for sending 25 vehicles today.

The Garden State Parkway is now closed from the Driscol Bridge to Cape May. The turnpike is closed from exit 7a to exit 8, and there are 42 other closures in 13 counties.

He repeated warnings to people who might try to take these roads, despite orders to the contrary. Do not get on the parkway, he said, even if there is not a truck blocking the ramp. It does not meant the road is open.

The governor also thanked President Obama, who called him today to ask if the state had all it needed from the federal government. Christie has a direct line to the White House if he needs anything. “I appreciate that kind of leadership,” said Christie.

“We are staring at the worst 4 to 6 hours of the storm coming now,” Christie said.

 

A day of rough seas

All day, up and down the Jersey shore, pounding surf surged across beaches and into shore towns. Parts of the Atlantic City and Ocean City boardwalks have broken up, according to photos being posted on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Monday afternoon, Sea Isle City’s mayor Lenny Desiderio said his town was “getting walloped.”

“We got water where never had it before,” he said. “Just making sure to get everybody who didn’t leave out to safety. We did a reverse 911 call to tell anybody that’s left that we will make arrangements to get you out before tide comes back up. Right now is our best chance. … We have a dozen families to get out.”

In Bay Head, N.J., as the rain and wind intensified, the ocean broke through the dunes, and some streets were flooded. Kelly Mickle, the Bay Head deputy emergency management coordinator, said late Monday morning that the ocean has surged over the beach and onto Route 35 and local streets.

Despite a mandatory evacuation order for the barrier islands, some residents decided to stay. Shelley Kirk was one of two women walking their dogs on a side street just off Route 35. She’s hoping to make it through the storm at home.

“We’re a little worried,” said Kirk, “but I think we’re willing to ride it out. We took all the precautions. We have a generator. We have a lot of friends that are staying, and we have a way out with the truck if need be.”

Emergency management officials were expecting winds to be 75 miles an hour or more for a 10- to 11-hour span. They say they will make their best effort to get to residents who didn’t leave and have serious problems, but it could take a while to reach them.

Gov. Christie had some pointed words for Shore residents who clung to the idea of riding out the storm in place. They weren’t as pithy as his famous “Get the hell off the beach” line during Irene in 2011, but were still blunt.

“Twenty-five percent of the people decide to stay in Seaside Heights! It’s just stupid!” Christie said. “If any of you watched, as I was watching this morning, some of the news folks on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights — and that’s at noon today and the storm is 200 miles away. What do you think it’s going to be like in 12 hours when the storm comes on shore?”

Not just another day at the Shore

In Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., police have blocked off access to parts of the town near the ocean because of the threat of flooding. Most businesses are closed.

Josephine Gaffey is the manager of the Corner Bagelry. She opened for a while so residents could get bread and bagels but ran out of milk. She plans to stay at her upstairs residence during the storm.

“I’m very concerned, real concerned, because it’s like the worst one we had ever, and I’m right by the ocean,” she Gaffey said. “I just don’t want nothing to happen to anyone. I wish everyone would just stay indoors and evacuate if they’re by the water.”

John Sasse was putting plywood on the windows of a hardware store where he works across the street.

“We got two front windows here. Just in case debris comes flying into it, we don’t want to get any damage on the inside. By the minute I’m getting more and more concerned. I’ve lived here my entire life and other than ’91, this is the worst I’ve seen it.”

He said the store ran out of generators, flashlights and batteries. That disappointed some residents hoping to get some last-minute supplies to deal with any loss of power as they ride out the storm at home.

The National Weather Service said this morning that Sandy will produce damaging wind gusts up to hurricane force across our region into early Tuesday.

“Sandy has intensified and will be powerful as it slams into the New Jersey Coast this evening with periods of widespread damaging wind gusts between 65 and 85 mph,” the weather service said. “Preparations must be completed by noon as conditions will worsen substantially this afternoon and evening.”

A host of impacts

Power outages are expected to be widespread.

Reuters news service reported at least two major New Jersey nuclear power plants are likely to shut as Hurricane Sandymakes landfall as a Category 1 storm, and more plants could reduce power as the storm triggers precautionary safetymeasures.  The Salem and Hope Creek plants of Public Service Enterprise Group provide about 19 percent of New Jersey’s electricity under normal conditions.

Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants expect to maintain operations during the storm; both Pennsylvania and New Jersey are part of the PJM Power Grid.

Camden County and the Red Cross have opened a shelter for storm evacuees at the Camden County Community College.

Lori Shaffer, director of public relations at Cooper University Healthcare in Camden, says the hospital is well-prepared for the hurricane.

“Hospital is fully operational at this point,” she said. We have all staff on deck up as needed. Our emergency department as well as all of our other in-patient departments are fully operational. We have closed all of our out-patient offices for today, Monday, as well as tomorrow, Tuesday.”

Due to expected high winds, the Delaware River Port Authority has suspended truck traffic on its spans across the Delaware River.

NJ Transit and PATCO also suspended service today.

Amtrak has suspended train service across the Northeast. New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore moved to shut down their subways, buses and trains and said schools would be closed on Monday.

All New Jersey state offices are closed

Complete Sandy Coverage

In Washington, President Barack Obama promised the government would “respond big and respond fast” after the storm hits.

“My message to the governors as well as to the mayors is anything they need, we will be there, and we will cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules,” he said.

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