North Jersey residents are expected to wake up Sunday to an angry Irene pounding on their door.
As powerful Irene tore her way up the eastern seaboard Saturday, residents from Cape May to Mahwah prepared for what could be the worst storm to hit the state in 50 years.
“The tracking of the storm is ominous for New Jersey,” Gov. Chris Christie warned residents during an afternoon briefing.
Evidence of the dire predictions surrounding Irene was easy to see around Bergen and Passaic counties, as worried residents swarmed gas stations, supermarkets and any place that sells batteries.
Sunday morning is expected to bring with it a monster storm that experts predict will dump up to a foot of rain, driven by possible hurricane-force winds.
As many as 1,500 members of the National Guard have been deployed around the state, as officials seek as many shelter locations as possible, including the IZOD center in the Meadowlands.
Much of the New Jersey coastline was abandoned by late afternoon Saturday, as officials made a last, desperate attempt to coax people out of Atlantic City. Christie ordered a fleet of NJ Transit buses sent to the city in the hopes that as many as 600 seniors would leave their high-rises.
The move coincided with a grim warning.
"I can’t make you leave your home and I am not going to place you under arrest to leave," he said. "Let us take you downstairs to one of these buses…If you stay where you are now, you are placing yourself in great danger."
Eventually, the governor said, people who refuse to evacuate would likely have to fend for themselves.
The pace of evacuations was swift and organized. As many as 95 percent of the people on Long Beach Island have left, Cape May County is nearly deserted and 9 of 10 people have fled the barrier islands of Atlantic County.
“We are doing everything we can to preserve human life,” Christie said.
The eye of Irene is expected to pass by the Asbury Park-area at about 8 a.m., meaning the worst of the storm should hit North Jersey by late morning. Heavy rain should start hours before that, though, well ahead of day-break.
PSE&G said they would have a small army of 6,000 workers ready to tackle the aftermath of the storm.
A Scramble For Supplies
during intermittent rain, forming a long line at the outdoor store Campmor before its 9:30 a.m. opening. By that time, Ramsey Outdoor had already posted signs telling customers the store was out of lanterns, flashlights and batteries.
Twitter users reported that even life vests and oars had been cleaned from the shelves at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“I’m just looking for a cooking stove,” said Mark Berman of Hackensack, as he waited outside Ramsey Outdoor. “We know we’re going to lose power, the stove is all electric, and we got to be able to cook.”
ShopRite in Paramus started rationing water, limiting each family to two gallons. At Target, runs on milk and eggs wiped out most stock by lunch time. Residents also made a run on gas, creating long lines at some stations, and wiping out the gasoline at Hess on Route 17, which had its pumps cordoned off.
Several other gas stations were sucked dry as well on Saturday, leading to long lines at stations that did have fuel.
Staving Off Another Floyd
Officials in Ridgewood , which caused significant damage to the village in Sept. 1999.
"We've learned a lot since Floyd," said Mayor Keith Killion, who was a police officer at the time. "One of the reasons we are more prepared is because most of the staff – including certain council people – were here during Floyd and we can learn from…mistakes.”
Part of what has changed from over a decade ago is how the message is getting out. The village is taking advantage of technology – its website will be constantly updated, as will its Twitter feed, the mayor said.
"The current plan is to have the senior bus manned so that if people do need to be evacuated they will be taken to the county shelter at Bergen Community College," added Deputy Mayor Tom Riche. "The plan is that during the height of the storm only life-saving calls will be attended to and prioritized.”
Christie also made the decision to suspend the registration requirements of vehicles for garbage pickup.
"What that means is we can pick up garbage in vehicles that aren't registered to pick up garbage," Killion said.
"After Floyd there was massive debris on the curbs and you had to have DEP permits on every vehicle but that's fortunately been suspended," Riche added.
Valley Hospital Communications Director Ken Parker said the hospital is 'well prepared' to deal with whatever Irene brings to the table.
"Generators have been filled to capacity with fuel and the hospital can be powered for as little as 2.5 days, but perhaps longer based on fuel consumption," he said. The facility backs up its phone system and wireless equipment, two-ways and satellite phones, he said.
"The public should feel very confident knowing that Valley is on top of the situation and has prepared for the storm from every angle," said Parker.
Towns Buckle In
In Paramus, officials made plans to open the command center in the Life Safety Complex, Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said. There, OEM, emergency services, borough department heads and the Community Emergency Response Team will coordinate storm response.
Acting Superintendent James Lupo of the Paramus Public School District had all the school buses moved into the Paramus High School student lot to keep them away from falling trees.
, and most church services had already been cancelled by Saturday afternoon
All emergency management personnel are “on alert and ready for the hurricane,” Mayor Rose Heck said.
“We are prepared for the worst but are hoping for the best as we approach hour zero,” she said.
A sign on the front of Anton’s Salon which read “Irene Go Away” captured the feeling of many in Southern Bergen county, the low lying areas of which could see severe flooding.
John Dingertopadre, owner of Maria’s Kitchen, said that unless he is without power he plans to open the shop first thing in the morning on Sunday. He stocked up on extra bread and milk and was ready to make breakfast.
, as residents and business owners scrambled to prepare for Irene.
Bob Earl, owner of Hardware Station on Wyckoff Avenue, said the store has been very busy selling gas cans, batteries, flashlights, pumps and other storm gear, but also have plenty of tools for repairing any damage after Irene passes.
True Value in Franklin Lakes was "out of everything that makes light," except for matches and lighters. They were also out of most batteries, gas cans and sump pumps.
Glen Rock Mayor John van Keuren, at his weekly sit and chat with residents outside the town's Starbucks, said a major concern was downed power lines and wires.
"But, you know what the real number one concern is? That central dispatch goes down and we don't know it. People would start calling central dispatch or 911 to communicate an emergency and central can't get in touch with us," van Keuren said. "That's something we worry about a lot."
Orange and Rockland Utilities, which provides electricity to homes and businesses in Mahwah,
The company said it anticipates cutting gas and electric to homes in its service area due to forecasted flooding. O&R said that repairs will be slower than usual, as downed trees, strong winds, and flooding will “present ongoing access problems…for crews.”
During Hurricane Floyd in 1999, more than half of all Orange and Rockland customers lost power, with some waiting two weeks for it to be restored, the company said.
“O&R anticipates that it may have to virtually rebuild much of its electric system in Irene’s wake, and that complete service restoration can be measured in weeks instead of days,” the company’s VP of Operations, James Tarpey, said in the release.
In Teaneck, , from the Department of Public Works clearing storm drains in flood-prone areas, to having extra town staff standing by, said Township Manager William Broughton.
“Teaneck is well prepared,” Broughton said Friday. “We’ve been preparing for a coordinated response.”
With last year’s storm taking down 300 trees in town, one of the main concerns for officials are fallen trees and branches. Both private and township tree removal crews are on stand-by, Broughton said.
The Willowbrook Mall in Wayne closed at 5 p.m. and will remain closed on Sunday.
“I think we’d better take heed with this one. This is scary,” Gloria Saltzman, a Pequannock resident said in the Super Foodtown parking lot on Route 23 North.
With reporting and writing by James Kleimann, Alana Quartuccio, James Laggate, Noah Cohen, Myles Ma, Jessica Mazzola, Matt Owen, Daniel Hubbard, Tracy Montgomery, Joseph M. Gerace and Tom Troncone.