Christie Orders N.J.’s Islands, Casinos Evacuated

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency yesterday, as Hurricane Sandy barreled toward the U.S. East Coast and appeared headed to strike land near Delaware Bay.

Christie said the state is prepared for hurricane-force winds along portions of New Jersey’s Atlantic Ocean coastline. Delaware Bay separates Delaware from the southern coastline of New Jersey.

The governor ordered the mandatory evacuation of all the state’s barrier islands south of Sandy Hook and the closing of the state’s 12 casinos, both at 4 p.m. today. In New York City, authorities began preparing a schedule for a shutdown of the city’s subway, bus and commuter-train systems.

“Everyone’s saying, ‘This is crap, it isn’t going to happen -- the weathermen always get it wrong, so I’m just going to hang out here,’” Christie told reporters yesterday in the coastal community of Middletown, in central New Jersey. “Please don’t, OK? We have to be prepared for the worst here.”

Rick Fuentes, head of the New Jersey State Police, said a landfall near Delaware Bay could send a storm surge up the Delaware River, adding to the flooding threat in some portions of western New Jersey.

Winds, Power Outages

Christie said the cyclone, dubbed “Frankenstorm” by the National Weather Service, may knock down trees with its high winds and the fact leaves are still on many trees may lead to more broken limbs, which compound power outages. He said the state is anticipating some outages may last as long as 10 days after the storm passes.

In addition, he said some communities along the Hackensack and Passaic rivers need to prepare for flooding due to torrential rains. Christie has ordered the state to begin lowering reservoirs to prevent flooding.

In New York City, plans are being made to start closing down subway, bus, and commuter train systems at 7 p.m. today.

Joe Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, whose 8.5 million daily riders make it the biggest U.S. transit service, said the agency has developed a contingency plan for shutting service, and will decide if it will be implemented today. If it does, service disruptions will begin at 7 p.m. today with all subway and bus service stopping by 3 a.m. Oct. 29. The last trains on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter lines would leave New York City at 7 p.m., he said at a press conference in New York.

Hurricane Plan

“No decisions have been made yet, but the planning is going on,” Lhota said. “All of our 8.5 million daily customers need to prepare for the storm and be ready to complete their travels by 7 p.m. Sunday.”

The MTA’s hurricane plan is to close down service if winds are sustained at 39 mph or higher, the agency said in an e-mailed statement. Another update is planned for today, when a final decision will be announced, Lhota said.

There haven’t been any weather-related delays yet at Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport, said Pat Foye, director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates them. More than 300,000 passengers pass through the three New York City-area airports on 3,000 flights on an average Saturday, Foye said.

Dangerous Conditions

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters during a City Hall briefing yesterday that the storm “could do a lot of damage.”

The mayor said the city’s major concern is the risk of property damage and dangerous conditions from a storm surge that could flood coastal areas.

He will decide by this afternoon whether city schools should be closed tomorrow. “We would very much like to have the schools open,” he said. “Our kids need to go to school and a lot of New Yorkers depend on their kids going to school so they can go to work to make a living. If it was dangerous of course we obviously would not do it,” he said, referring to keeping the schools open.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell ordered a mandatory evacuation of coastal areas effective at 8 p.m. yesterday with a goal of completing the evacuation in 24 hours.

States of Emergency

The Democratic governor also declared a limited state of emergency for his state.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in New York.

Christie, who said he was forced to cancel an Oct. 30 campaign event with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Nevada, warned residents to stay off roads unless necessary and to avoid using generators indoors or “jerry-rigging” extension cords to deal with outages.

“If it looks stupid, it is stupid,” he said. “That’s the Jersey rule.”

Emergency shelters are being activated in all 21 counties and 1,000 National Guard members have been deployed, he said.

The system, which killed at least 58 people in the Caribbean, remained on track to hit the region sometime late on tomorrow or early Oct. 30. The cyclone is expected to bring high winds, rain and a tidal surge that may inundate some coastal areas.

Greg Matula, a spokesman for NuStar Energy LP, said in an e-mail the company is in the process of shutting down its refinery in the riverfront community of Paulsboro. The company has shut its Virginia Beach, Virginia, jet fuel storage facility.

(Corrects spelling of surname in headline.)
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