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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
August 25, 2011

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Michael Drewniak
Kevin Roberts
609-777-2600


 
Governor Christie Discusses Potential Impact of Hurricane Irene and Declares State of Emergency


 

Video

Transcript of this Video:

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: I completed a briefing with our executive team to begin the next step of preparations. We’ve been preparing for this since Monday. The latest tracking tells us that this is going to become more serious than less. We’ve moved to an extreme rating from the National Weather Service in terms of the impact on New Jersey and the current tracking is going to lead to, if it continues, a serious significant event in the state. The Emergency Operations Center has been activated. We’ve been preparing as I’ve said department coordination of the State Police, the National Guard, Homeland Security and Preparedness, the DEP, Department of Transportation, and Human Services. Before I entered the room, I declared a state of emergency already in anticipation of what’s going to be happening. That is going to allow General Reith to begin to deploy National Guard resources throughout the state immediately and he has begun to execute on those orders which I just signed. The state OEM is coordinating with every county, all twenty-one, as they mobilize preparations at the county and local level and this is very important to emphasize for local elected officials and for county officials. Any request for any assistance must come through from the local to the county up to the state OEM. We will not be dealing with individual requests to the National Guard or others from localities. They have to go through the coordinated system. That’s the only way for us to be able to assess and evaluate the relative need of the various requests and to be able to get a handle on what’s going on throughout the state on a real-time basis throughout all twenty-one counties. I’m going to turn it over for a moment to Colonel Fuentes for him to give an update on the status of the hurricane and where we see things going right now. I’ll come back to talk about a few other things and then bring Director McKenna and General Reith to talk about some stuff and then I’ll take questions from you. So Colonel.

COLONEL FUENTES: Thank you Governor. As the Governor pointed out we’ve been working with county and local OEMs since Monday looking at all the possible scenarios and we basically woke up this morning to find that the storm had wobbled westward. That was not a good sign for us because it looks like the eye is going to pass very close to if not over Cape May which means that the barrier islands that are concentrated in Atlantic County and in Cape May County are going to be subject to some very high winds. They are going to be subject to a storm surge which may run as much as twelve feet as a result of the coincidence of astronomical tides on Saturday night and Sunday morning. And so we’re engaged in somewhat extraordinary discussions beyond the normal discussions that we’ve had over the last few days about the nature of evacuations. The Governor is probably going to talk a little bit more about that. The entire state is obviously going to be subject to a pretty terrible rain event. As a matter of fact right now and this system doesn’t have anything to do with the hurricane. We’re looking at one to two inches of rain through very early in the overnight hours and then tomorrow should be a nice day which is going to play very well for the evacuations that we’re asking and working with the counties to carry out and Saturday evening we’re literally going to be in the thick of it with tropical storm winds that are going to be arriving down in the Cape May area probably around 6 pm. They’re going to build in intensity to CAT 1 hurricane force winds which may run upwards of 80 mph as we get into the early Sunday morning hours. Obviously at that point in time we want everybody to be home to be properly prepped. We don’t want anybody on those barriers and we’re going to be working very, very closely with the county and local OEMs to make sure that we get everybody out of harm’s way and that we restrict access on any bridge entry to those islands as we get closer to the event because it doesn’t make sense to take people off while we’re letting people in. So all of those things are occurring right now. You can imagine that this is a very dynamic situation. We have excellent partnerships in this state and I think everybody knows that. This is where we take it beyond the battlefield conditions and put it to work so I want to thank the counties and the locals for their assistance in this.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: The Colonel mentioned the issue of evacuation. First thing. Anyone who has shore rentals or who are planning to go to the shore this weekend, do not go. If the event starts on Saturday of Sunday do not go. As the Colonel said we are anticipating this to hit on Saturday night and as a result we won’t know well into Monday what the level of potential damage is in those areas both to property and to any life that would be out there. We do not want folks going to the shore this weekend, and we’re urging them not to do it. If you’re there at the shore now in the midst of a rental that runs till Saturday or Sunday, or a permanent home that you have there or you’re visiting in some other way, we would like and I’m urging folks to voluntarily leave either tonight or during the day tomorrow but certainly by tomorrow night I would ask everybody to voluntarily get out of the shore area, especially the barrier islands that Rick referenced before. As we monitor this storm it is very likely that we’ll close off all access to the barrier islands sometime on Saturday once we’ve had the opportunity to have as many folks as can leave to leave. We’re going to continue to monitor this. Right now I’m asking people to do this voluntarily. I am actively considering a mandatory evacuation but I’m not there yet. If I am I’ll be coming back out before you to order a mandatory evacuation but certainly the executive order I just signed and the general powers of the governorship permit me to do that any time and if I believe it’s necessary to do so but right now I’d like everybody who is at the shore area, certainly by midday tomorrow to be out of the shore area and headed back home to where you live permanently. The local shelters are being opened and will be available for access soon, certainly will be available for access by the time we’re going to be asking anybody to evacuate in a mandatory fashion or before the storm hits on Saturday evening whichever comes first. There is a website for people to go to help prepare themselves for the storm. It’s ready.nj.gov. Director McKenna will go through that in more detail and some of the specifics of things that people should be doing to be prepared. The good news about this is that we have enough time to be prepared. People need to utilize the time over the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours in an efficient effective way. Do not leave things until the last minute. Get ready now for what will be coming on Saturday. Local officials out there, mayors, council people, freeholders, county executives, should be notifying their communities about where shelters are available. Use all the resources that you have available at the local or county level to get that information out there as to where shelters will be available for those folks who need it. We’ve been coordinating with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and the state food banks to ensure access to food and water and shelter all across the state. Homeland Security and Preparedness has been working on just such preparations for warehousing, for food and water in a centralized place in the state. Director McKenna efforts have that in place for us prior to this incident. So, the bottom line for the people especially in South Jersey at the shore is begin to get ready to leave now and please leave by midday tomorrow. For those folks in other places around the state understand especially in South Jersey we have significant rain and number of dams failing last week, the additional rain we’re having today across the state will not only affect obviously what’s going on in the ocean but in the rivers across the state are going to be almost at capacity already after today’s rain incident so there is going to be some significant chance of flooding if we get the type of rainfall that’s being at least predicted now by tracking so people who are in the areas that are prone to flooding and the local officials in those areas need to be prepared and start working now to interact with their county OEMs, and the state OEM to be able to be prepared for what’s going to happen there as well. And for anybody whether you’re in a low-lying area that floods or any place else in the state there’s probably no part in the state if the storm continues to track the way it is that won’t be affected by this. And so I’m going to turn it over to Director McKenna for him to give advice to New Jerseyans on the mainland, things you need to do to prepare for the weekend, and to give a little bit of depth of njready.gov website what it can do and what they should be working with. Charlie?

NEW JERSEY HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR MCKENNA: Thank you Governor. To those of you that haven’t already prepared for this storm, the time to prepare is now. No one should underestimate this storm at all because it can bring incredibly harmful affects. The first thing people should to is formulate a plan. And as the governor said, you can go to ready.nj.gov. That will give you all the information that you need to know on how to formulate a plan. The plan should include a number of things. First thing you should is to make sure if you have a car, you top off the gas tank in that car. The high winds in this storm could very well knock out the power for a substantial period of time. Gas pumps will not work. ATMs will not work. If you need cash, you want to get that cash before the power goes out. You want to make sure you have flashlights. You want to make sure you have batteries to power those flashlights. You want to make sure you have a hand crank radio so that you can listen to news reports. You want to make sure that you take prescription drugs -- that you have and adequate supply of those prescription drugs. If you don’t, you want to fill those prescriptions now. You want to make sure you have a first aid kit in you house. You want to make sure you have adequate food and water. And that should include one gallon of water per person per day. You should just have five days of food and water. And you want to have nonperishable foods and can openers to get into those nonperishable foods. If you have children, you want to make sure you have baby formula and you have diapers. And finally, you want to make sure you monitor the reports on the radio and make sure you heed the warnings of your emergency management personnel who tell you and will inform you of what to do. And make sure you know the emergency evacuation routes around your towns. So again, don’t underestimate this storm. And the more preparation you do before the storm, the better off you’re going to be.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: I had an opportunity to be briefed also this morning by General Reith. The good news for us is that there’s only about 500 of our National Guard personnel who are deployed outside of the state right now which means that both from an equipment and a personnel level we’re in a very good position to be able to have the National Guard play a key role in being able to help us deal with what’s going to be coming over the next seventy-two hours and beyond. General Reith has been here as part of the preparation right from the beginning and will continue as we go forward along with me commanding the forces that we have at our disposal for the National Guard so I’ll turn it over to General Reith to talk about that.

GENERAL REITH: Thank you Governor. Good afternoon. Let me just reemphasize what the Governor just indicated. The majority of our team, both Army and Air is within the state. Good news because all of our equipment both rotary wing and wheeled vehicles to allow us to respond out to the communities are there. We’re in contact with Northern Command which has the overall federal responsibility to assist the state at the request of the Governor and we’re working through that process to ensure that there are additional military assets that are needed here within the state will come in a timely fashion. Lastly I just want to dovetail on what the Superintendent said. We are military first responders that go out at the direction of the New Jersey OEM. We don’t take any requests at the municipal or county level. They come from the state level. This is the center of gravity for the response. And at the end of the day we respond from the State Police, from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. Thank you.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: Last thing before I take questions is I want to emphasize to folks again. I know that over the course of time people get warnings whether it’s been about severe snowstorms or other severe weather activity that turn out maybe to be not as advertised. I can’t guarantee people what’s going to happen over the course of the next few days but what I will tell you is that the current tracking of the storm is not positive for our state. And so if you’re being directed by emergency management personnel at the local or county level or at the state level to move and to go someplace else do not try to ride it out. It is not the smart thing to do. I will not order evacuation unless I believe it’s absolutely necessary but if I order it I expect it to be complied with and we will enforce that order to evacuate people from areas where we believe that they’re in potential life-threatening circumstances. And so the advice that you’re getting at the local, county, and state level is advice that you should follow. I understand that sometimes folks think that people overreact in this situation. Let me assure you that we are not overreacting. We need to be ready for this. If we give advice, things like leave the shore in the next twenty-four hours, I hope that people will comply with that in a voluntary way and not force my hand in having to make it mandatory. So I appreciate that being conveyed out to the public and I’m prepared to take questions.

 
 
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