By Brenda Flanagan
The Jersey Shore remains under a tropical storm warning as Hermine churns up the coast, bringing flooding high winds. Gov. Chris Christie yesterday declared states of emergency in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties. The governor had a news conference today where he updated storm preparedness. Basically he said the good news is Hermine seems to be heading more to the east. That means the severity of the storm’s impact on the Jersey coast will be less severe. However the bad news is that there will be flooding and there will be coastal erosion.
“The biggest thing today is for people not to be lulled by the nice weather, that nothing’s going to happen. Something’s going to happen,” Christie said.
The governor warned Hermine will cause significant pounding by ocean waves and light to moderate flooding through Sunday night and Monday high tides, especially in back bays. Jersey beaches remain closed to swimming and surfing. If storm winds increase, it could knock out power lines and more.
“The stronger the wind is — even if it’s a little further offshore — but if it elevates back up to hurricane level that will still bring us very, very significant tidal surge, and that will mean more water on the barrier islands and that will more beach erosion,” Christie said.
Christie insisted Hermine is not Sandy. But if the storm wobbles west, it could prompt evacuations.
“I always try to err on the side of caution, so I’m more relieved than I am concerned, and we can always ramp up, if it were to turn westward, we can always ramp up the need for evacuating people in short order. The only difference as opposed to Sandy, this is happening in the last big weekend in the shore and you do have many more people — estimates are about 900,000 more people — on the barrier islands from Cape May up through Ocean than you would normally have in an off-peak weekend like we had in Sandy. So makes it a little trickier for us, but nothing in the forecast indicates evacuation now, so I’m not going to do it,” Christie said.
Besides the three New Jersey counties, Suffolk County on Long Island is also under a state of emergency and voluntary evacuations are underway on Fire Island. New York City beaches are closed to swimming and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has activated the State Emergency Operations Center. Christie explained he declared a state of emergency because it’s a holiday weekend.
“The signing of the declaration of emergency was to give me the maximum amount of flexibility to respond to the storm as would be needed. I hope not to have to use the assets. But it would be much too late if the storm started to track west for me to declare an emergency then and try in difficult weather to get guardsmen and women in and active and deployed. And so the declaration of emergency is more about preparedness than it is anything else,” Christie said.
The governor will be getting updates from the National Weather Service later in the day. He urged residents to stay tuned to news reports so they can stay safe.