Gov. Chris Christie told New Jersey mid-day Friday Hurricane Irene is "not like anything you’ve seen before," and urged residents to take the threat of injury or death seriously.
He said several steps have been taken—including evacuations, the suspension of tolls and the suspension of transit services. He urged college campuses to delay move-ins and the start of classes, as several have done. And he said steps have been taken to coordinate with President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to address the storm and its aftermath.
The governor's full comments are below. He's expected to make another address later in the day Friday as well:
Good afternoon. We’ve announced some additional actions that are being taken to prepare for the hurricane. The first thing is it’s really important for residents and visitors to pay attention to these announcements. It’s vital to ensure the orderly evacuation of the Shore. Now, I want to be really clear to the folks in Cape May, and Atlantic, and Ocean County on the barrier islands. You have to get out. The weather is good today. It’s sunny. It is time to move. The tracking of the storm has not changed in any significant way from what I updated yesterday and that means that there is going to be significant storm activity on the barrier islands, storm surges, that’s going to lead to potentially record flooding on the barrier islands. So, this is not like anything you’ve seen before, and I’ve heard some dopes on television today saying yeah, yeah, yeah, you know a Category 2 hurricane is nothing more than a bad thunderstorm. You stay there at the risk of your life. It’s that simple.
If the track of the storm changes that’s one thing. But it has not changed now in the last nearly twenty-four hours, and there’s no expectation from the National Weather Service at this point that it will. So, these people who are going on the news and both the radio and the television and saying they’ve seen it all before and they’re going to ride it out, those are the same people who are going to be asking General Reith’s troops to go in there and try to save them with a helicopter as the water fills up to the attic. So, you know, I’m very, very serious about this. If you’re in Cape May or Atlantic or Ocean County on the barrier islands it is time to get out--- in fact it’s overdue, and the sooner you leave, the more orderly the transition will be, the less traffic there’s going to be for you to deal with because people are going to be evacuating and we’ll get to traffic in a second. But the Parkway is going to be very crowded. The sooner you get out and you get, you’re moving to the next place you’re going to go to for the remainder of the storm the better off you’re going to be.
So, first I’ve ordered a temporary suspension of tolls as most of you know already on all parts of the Garden State Parkway south of the Raritan River and on the Atlantic City Expressway. Beginning at 6:00 this evening contraflow will be in effect on Route 72 running for twenty-eight miles to Route 70. You know that’s the main point of access and egress from Long Beach Island. So come 6:00 tonight no one else is going to be allowed eastbound going on to Long Beach Island. It’s going to be closed down, and all of Route 72 will be flowing westbound off of the island. Utilize all those lanes of traffic to get people off. This is the action we think we need to take to aid both visitors and residents on Long Beach Island in Ocean County to get off and to get off tonight. Also on Routes 47 and 347 in Cape May they’ll be closed to eastbound traffic and the use of all lanes of traffic will move westward beginning tonight at 6:00 PM as well. Tonight at 6:00 PM 47 and 347 in Cape May will be contraflow, to be entirely westbound, for people who are getting off of the barrier islands in Cape May County. There will be no traffic southbound on the Garden State Parkway south of Exit 98 beginning at 8:00 tonight. Traffic will be rerouted to 195W. There is no reason for anybody to be traveling after 8:00 tonight or leaving after 8:00 for folks who are commuting home from work today but after 8:00 tonight there is no reason for anybody to be traveling south of Exit 98 on the Garden State Parkway and so that will be closed. A hard close at 8:00 tonight southbound on the Garden State Parkway. As part of this process all the ramps will be tightly controlled and additional personnel are going to be used to ensure folks’ safety.
Also with regard to New Jersey Transit, ACES and Meadowlands service has already been suspended beginning at noon tomorrow. All rail service will be suspended. Additionally with regards to Atlantic City in coordination with my office, the Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Casino Association of New Jersey all gaming activity will be suspended as of noon tomorrow. Security, surveillance and maintenance operations and personnel have been ramped up and coordinated to ensure that the necessary resources to protect and secure the casino properties are in place. In addition there will be no eastbound flow into Atlantic City after 6:00 this evening. So for some reason you were thinking about going to dinner in Atlantic City tonight forget it. Go someplace else. But no further eastbound flow into Atlantic City after 6:00 PM tonight, the same times that we’re dealing with 47 and 347 in Cape May County and Route 72 in Ocean County. Guests are being told that they need to be out of the hotels and the casinos by noon tomorrow. However guests who find themselves stranded due to travel or logistical reasons will be permitted to stay and we will have an orderly way of moving them out.
There’s a lot of other activity that has taken place in other departments as well. Let me go through that for a second. Motor Vehicle Commission offices in Atlantic, Cumberland, Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem Counties will close beginning at 4:00 PM today until further notice. So to aid New Jerseyans whose licenses expire at the end of this month the MVC will be providing an extension until September 10th for renewals on expired driver’s licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations, and inspections and that will be effective September 1st. so they’ll have an extra ten days into September to renew any of those things that would expire at the end of August. The Department of Corrections has already moved 534 inmates from housing at Southern State Prison in Cumberland County to various other facilities throughout the state yesterday will begin to move approximately 1300 inmates remaining to South Woods State Prison after midnight tonight and extra staff will be assigned at those facilities.
With regards to higher education it’s been suggested to the state colleges and universities that it would be prudent to follow Rutgers’ lead on rescheduling Sunday move-in dates for students. Secretary Hendricks has advised the independent schools to do the same. The Lieutenant Governor is hosting a conference call this afternoon to identify the catalog of services and funding sources across agency lines to begin working on today to develop an outreach plan for business. Services to be coordinated will include small business funding to the EDA and the SBA, BAC technical assistance and advocacy, DCA assistance, business service grants and assistance from the Department of Labor, DOBI to possibly assist with commercial insurers and serve as an ombudsman in helping to troubleshoot problems.
We’re already starting to plan for the aftermath and the Lieutenant Governor is taking the lead on making sure that businesses have all the information they need to access any type of aid that will be available to them both at the federal and state level in the aftermath of the storm.
I participated in a conference call today with the President along with a number of the other governors and large city mayors. We had a good call with the President. He assured us 110% cooperation from FEMA, the federal government, Secretary Napolitano was on the call as well, and governors from up and down the eastern seaboard and major city mayors were on that call with the President and he assured us that FEMA was engaged as was the whole Department of Homeland Security, told us that he would be back tomorrow to also assist and deal with issues that came up state-by-state. I’ve been participating on a regular basis in conversations here with all of our OEM participants who you see standing behind me. We are working to making sure we have appropriate evacuations for folks who can’t evacuate themselves. Jim Simpson who’s here, the Commissioner of Transportation, and Jim Weinstein, the Executive Director of New Jersey Transit are working to supply bus assets to move folks who cannot otherwise get themselves off of the Barrier Islands, particularly in Atlantic City. So, we’re working to try to use today. It’s a sunny day out, we are using today to get prepared.
And I’ll end with this and then take questions – for citizens out there, today is your last day to really prepare for this. This is going to come starting tomorrow afternoon and evening through the early part, mid-day of Sunday. And so all the things that Director McKenna reviewed with everybody yesterday – getting a five day supply of water, a gallon per person per day. Making sure to get non-perishable foods and get can openers to open those non-perishable foods. That you have flashlights and batteries to operate them. That you have transistor radios and batteries to operate them so that you can hear your news reports and advice that’s being given over the public airwaves. All of those things, you know, make sure your gas tanks are filled so that if you need to move, you can move. Because if power goes out many of the gas stations, if not all of them, will not be operating. So, we need to be ready. You need to use today to prepare. Today is not the day to go to dinner in Atlantic City, ok. Today is the day to get yourselves ready for what’s going to be happening over the next 48 hours. So, for those who are working today, when you’re done with work make it your priority to get that checklist done for things you need to have yourself and your family ready. There’s nothing that I’ve seen in the last 24 hours that indicates that this is going to be any less serious than what I said yesterday. In fact, in many ways it’s getting more daunting because it is barreling down on us now.
One last thing – I also had conversations last night with Governor Barbour of Mississippi and Governor Jindal of Louisiana to get advice from them given their experience in Mississippi and Louisiana regarding their experiences with both hurricane and preparedness and the aftermath. I also had an opportunity to speak this morning with former Florida Governor Bush and picked his brain for a while as well about ideas and issues he thought would be important for us to address given his experience in Florida. All three of the governors were incredibly generous with their time and their information to me and we’re going to benefit from the fact that we have those relationships and they’re willing to share that information.