While Hurricane Irene has downgraded to a Category 1 storm, Gov. Chris Christie said in his 2 p.m. preparedness briefing that decreasing wind speeds by 10-15 mph "will make little difference to the folks here in New Jersey."
So far, more than 90 percent of the residents in Long Beach Island, Cape May and Atlantic counties have been evacuated. The concern as of Saturday afternoon is Atlantic City and Christie said the New Jersey State Police and New Jersey Transit are sending additional buses to accelerate and complete the evacuation process.
"I can't make you leave your home and I am certainly not going to place you under arrest to make you leave," Christie said. "Let us take you downstairs to one of these buses. … if you stay where you are now, you are placing yourself in greater danger."
In one case, Christie said, first-responders tried to evacuate a 92-year-old woman who told them, "If I die, so be it."
Christie said shelters should be the last resort for housing. So far, the state is equipped to house about 5,300 people at the Rutgers campus . The Jersey City Armory and the Izod Center are on standby to help if needed. The armory can house about 750 people and the Izod Center can house more than double that, Christie said.
Christie said he began communicating with elected officials at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and will continue to host briefings.
"We need continued help to do this," Christie said. "I'm confident if people in the state continue to respond. ... If we can minmize the loss of life, New Jersey will get through this just fine."
He further reminded residents that even inland areas such as Morris County can be in danger, citing the bad floods that have often happened in the northeast area of the county, and in nearby Wayne.