UPDATE (2 p.m.): “I can’t be any clearer than this: You need to stay off the roads today,” Gov. Chris Christie said, just after noon. “Everyone should be asking themselves if the trip they’re thinking about making is absolutely necessary, or if, once you’re out on the roads you’re going to feel as if you made a huge mistake.” He urged citizens to remain calm and to use common sense to prevent deaths.
He also had a special message for children: “There is no reason to be scared. The adults are taking care of business.”
Hurricane Sandy has picked up speed and now is expected to make landfall sometime between 6 and 8 o’clock tonight.
With the eye of the storm still a couple hundred miles off the New Jersey, we’ve already seen serious damage — and that’s only the beginning, Christie said, during a noon news conference at the State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center in West Trenton.
Parts of Hoboken are already flooded, including Sinatra Park and outside the train station. Same for Edgewater, where borough officials are urging residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.
The speed limit on the New Jersey Turnpike has been reduced to 45 mph in both directions between the Delaware Memorial Bridge and Exit 12 in Carteret. Motorcycles and car-pulled trailers have been banned on the full length of the Turnpike.
The Garden State Parkway will be closed in both directions south of Exit 129 in Woodbridge Twp at 4 o’clock this afternoon.
Landfall is expected as early as 6 p.m., nearly six hours ahead of initial midnight predictions.
“We’re going to see winds increase as we move forward into the evening,” the governor said. “We’re going to see flooding increase. We’re going to see rain increase. All that is going to get worse than it is now.
“Someone’s going to have to take a deep breathe and make sure they’re prepared and relax…. We’re remaining calm. We want you to remain calm, too.”
- A downed high tension wire triggered a small brush fire on Paramus Road near Kramer Drive in Paramus this morning. Meanwhile, a fallen tree grazed a house in Ridgewood in the 500 block of East Saddle River Road. READ MORE….
Forecasters predict an 11.7-foot surge around 9 o’clock tonight. Under the same circumstances, Hurricane Irene didn’t exceed 9.5 feet. Winds have already hit 90 mph as the center approaches the Jersey Shore.
The National Hurricane Center has warned of “life-threatening storm surge flooding” along the Jersey Shore and in New York Harbor. The center also said that Sandy’s winds “may not weaken.”
Christie told those who remained on the barrier islands to get off. Some towns, he said, were only 50 percent evacuated as of this morning.
He talked about seeing a newspaper story about “some joker in his fatigues” who said he “wasn’t running away” from the storm. “You could wind up under it,” Christie said.
Once it gets dark, emergency workers aren’t heading in.
“This is not a time to be a showoff. This is not a time to be stupid,” he said. “Let’s get a move on on the barrier islands.”
Christie said he watched television news reports of people on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.
“That’s just stupid,” he said. “I’m very concerned about the people … who said they’re going to ride it out. They are now in harm’s way, and I don’t know if we can get them out or not. But we’re putting other people in harm’s way, the emergency responders, in trying to get them out.
“That’s not fair to their families.”
About 2,600 New Jerseyans had been relocated as of noon. Mental health crisis counselors were being deployed at the shelters.
Christie told citizens to head to county shelters first. For a county-by-county listing of shelters: nj211.org
He also drove home the need for personal responsibility.
“If you do not have power, please do not choose today as the time to tap into your creative juices and jerry-rig a power source. We need to be careful of the potential dangers of portable generators and backfeeding,” he said. “We said this the other day: If it looks stupid, it is stupid.”
The governor was backed by President Obama, who this afternoon told Americans to be both patient and prudent.
“Please listen to what your state and local officials are telling you,” Obama said during a White House news conference. “Don’t pause. Don’t delay.
“If you are not evacuating when you are asked to evacuate, you’re putting first responders in danger,” the president said.
Although the Coast Guard and Defense Department are in place, “we could have fatalities that could have been avoided” if they have to try and rescue large numbers of people, he said.
Not everyone was getting the message.
“This area is under mandatory evacuation, but you would never know it from the people who are here now,” said a WPIX reporter standing on the Long Branch boardwalk with more than a dozen shouting, jumping spectators.
The group was evacuated from Sea Bright, she said.
A regional shelter is open at Bergen Community College (400 Paramus Road, Paramus). It can accommodate special needs and is domestic pet-friendly. Bring clothes, medications for yourself and/or family members, important documents, things to keep kids busy. If you bring a pet, have a carrier case or crate, leash, pet food, any medications, a water bowl and waste bags.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker urged citizens not to hesitate to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“This is an epic alignment of problems,” Booker said. “You have a full moon, you have high tide hitting at the same time as the storm surge. It is so unpredictable and how rapid the onslaught is going to be. So the time to move is right now.”
The storm is expected to in one way or another affect 1 in 5 Americans in the continental U.S. — nearly 50 million of whom live in the tri-state area.
“History is being written as an extreme weather event continues to unfold, one which will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States,” senior meteorologist Stu Ostro said this morning.
Flooding is the biggest concern in parts of Hudson County and at the Shore. Nearly all of Atlantic City already was under water at 11:30. The rest of the barrier islands could suffer the same fate.
Sinatra Park in Hoboken flooded early this morning. Edgewater also began taking on water a little before 10 o’clock.
Driving bans take effect in Jersey City at 2 o’clock and in Hoboken at 4.
In North Jersey, winds pose the greatest risk. They’ll be strong enough to knock down trees, which could rip down power lines and hit whatever is below ( PHOTO TOP : Meadow Road, Westwood).
Those in higher altitudes — from Alpine and Tenafly to Cliffside Park, Fairview and North Bergen — could get the worst of it.
Sandy’s winds have already hit 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. advisory. Onshore gusts have been reported at 71 mph in Harvey Cedars and 62 in Sea Girt.
- NJ News Commons , based at Montclair State, is pulling together information from various news sources across the state, including CLIFFVIEW PILOT . For the latest :
Of roughly 25,000 power outages reported before 1:30, most are in Monmouth County. About a quarter of those were in North Jersey.
All are schools are closed; many will continue to be tomorrow. NJ Transit has suspended all lines — trains, buses, light rail, ferries. PATH is suspended, as well, along with area airports.
We could see bridges and other tunnels closed, as well.
President Obama has signed an emergency declaration for New Jersey, making federal funding available for measures taken in advance of Sandy.
From The Weather Channel:
“High wind warnings extend from Maine to portions of Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia and into the southern Appalachians as far south as northeast Georgia. Coastal flood warnings extend up and down the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coast. Flood watches for heavy rainfall dominate a large chunk of the Northeast. Hurricane-force wind warnings have been issued for the coastal waters of seven states. The clash of cold air diving into the eastern states plus moisture and strong winds from Sandy has prompted the issuance of blizzard warnings in the mountains of West Virginia! Winter storm warnings extend as far south as the North Carolina and Tennessee borders.”
“The hard reality is: Even if we do everything in our power, we can’t stop the storm and we can’t completely mitigate the effect it’s going to have,” Gov. Christie said yesterday, adding that he doesn’t want to see “lives lost unnecessarily.”
Measures have been taken to help mitigate the damage, the governor said.
Pompton Lake was lowered five feet — the most ever.
“Gates will be adjusted to maintain the 5-foot level until the rain begins,” Christie said during a news conference this afternoon at the Pompton Lakes Volunteer Fire House.
He also ordered mandatory evacuations yesterday or the barrier islands from Sandy Hook south to Cape May, including Atlantic City, Long Beach Island, Brick, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, Toms River, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Ocean City and Sea Isle City.
Christie urged residents in vulnerable areas to move to county shelters. If they fill up, state-supported shelters will open.
Bergen County Community College, Lyndhurst senior center, Northern Valley Regional High School are ready to accept evacuees.
KEEP THESE NUMBERS HANDY (DON’T FORGET: 911 is for emergencies only and shouldn’t be used to check on power, phone or cable outages or to ask about road conditions.):
PSE&G Customer Service
: 1-800-436-7734 Also: www.twitter.com/psegdelivers
United Water: 201-487-0011
Rockland Electric: (877) 434-4100
Optimum: (201) 262-8600
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.