New Jerseyans soaked by Sandy; Storm shuts down Garden State
GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 11/1/2012, 11:56 a.m.
Hurricane Sandy pummeled New Jersey with an unrelenting winds and drenching rains the likes of which had not been experienced by the state in more than a century, according to some meteorologists from across the state and the country. The storm virtually shut down the Garden State for two days.
On Sunday, Gov. Chris Christie declared a State of Emergency as the velocity and wrath of the storm became evident to weather forecasters and other officials. With wind gusts hitting nearly 90 miles per hour and rain falling at a rate of as much as one inch per hour in some places, Christie also ordered a mandatory evacuation of several areas across the state on Sunday afternoon through Monday.
At one of several press conferences prior to the storm, Christie said portions of Sandy Hook south to Cape May would be evacuated. Additionally, all casinos in Atlantic City were shut down Sunday afternoon in an effort to assist officials with the evacuation process. Nearly all of the state's counties have temporary shelters available for displaced residents.
"Eighteen of the 21 counties have designated shelters and evacuation facilities," Christie said. "The first choice is to shelter at home, however, the shelters designated have the capacity to hold more than 12,000 evacuees if necessary." Christie added, however, that if a resident's home is threatened or unsafe, the first choice should be to go to a county shelter. Additionally, a number senior citizen centers across the state will also be available as temporary shelters.
On Monday afternoon, dozens of rivers creeks and tributaries across the state continued to rise and began to overflow their banks. Additionally, a number of roadways, highways and streets were shut down. Several sections of the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway were either closed or had speed restrictions in place. Newark Liberty International Airport technically remained open; however, all flights in and out of the terminal were suspended. All New Jersey Transit service, Amtrak and PATH train service were suspended. Several tunnels and bridges between New York and New Jersey were closed or rerouted, including the heavily traveled Holland Tunnel.
"Flooding continues to be the biggest challenge and obstacle for our crews," said Karen Johnson, spokeswoman for Public Service Electric & Gas. The Newark-based utility company is the largest provider of electrical power in the state. Johnson said PSEG repair crews will be working 16-hour shifts throughout and after the storm. As of Monday afternoon, about 35,000 residences and businesses were without power in New Jersey, according to early figures from the Governor's Office.
In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker said a temporary shelter was established at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center in the Central Ward. Booker echoed the sentiments of President Barack Obama, who made at least two nationally televised appearances addressing the hurricane.
"This is going to be a difficult storm," Booker said at a Monday morning press conference in Newark. "We are prepared and have made numerous food, medical and shelter resources for our residents."
Finally, as of late Monday, flood warnings remained in place throughout the state with forecasters predicting that it will likely be a week or longer before flood waters recede and return to normal levels.