Residents in NJ coastal areas urged to evacuate

February 9, 2013 3:00:47 AM PST
Two towns hit hard by Superstorm Sandy urged barrier island residents to evacuate Friday and the mayor of Newark warned residents to prepare for late-day power outages as a major winter storm bore down on New Jersey, with the most snow and highest winds expected in the state's northeast corner.

Light snow or freezing rain was falling in northern areas of the state early Friday afternoon, with light rain reported elsewhere.

Brick Township and Toms River issued a voluntary evacuation order for areas still recovering from Sandy.

"We're telling people, if they can, find shelter elsewhere," said Edward Moroney, a Brick Township spokesman.

Parts of the coast were expected to see waves up to 12 feet and minor to moderate flooding during high tide. Toms River emergency management director Paul Daley said it is "very likely" some areas in the township may flood, including land near the Barnegat Bay. Those areas have become more prone to flooding since Superstorm Sandy struck in late October.

A blizzard warning was posted for northeast New Jersey, calling for up to 14 inches of snow. Up to 10 inches was forecast for central and northern areas of the state and 2 to 5 inches for south Jersey.

The approach of the big storm was having a big impact on air travel. Newark Liberty International Airport was one of the airports in the Northeast with the most cancellations, according to airline tracking website FlightAware. Only minor delays were being reported Friday afternoon on flights still on the board.

NJ Transit buses and trains were cross-honoring tickets and officials urged commuters to try to head home early, with the worst conditions expected late Friday and overnight. Several trains on NJ Transit's outbound Main/Bergen County Line to Port Jervis, N.Y., were canceled due to the weather, a spokeswoman said.

"Unlike Sandy we didn't shut the system down ahead of time, we are riding through it," spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said. "But as the dynamics of the storm change, we are closely monitoring it."

Many schools in the state dismissed students early as conditions were expected to deteriorate as the day went on.

The blizzard zone included the state's largest city, Newark, with a population of over 275,000.

Mayor Cory Booker urged residents to make contingency plans because of the likelihood of widespread power outages. He compared the coming storm to a late October 2011 storm that dumped heavy snow and felled trees and power lines, causing major outages.

He told residents to prepare for the storm as if they were preparing for Superstorm Sandy, and to help the most vulnerable.

"Today, one of the biggest things you can do is a small act of kindness," he said. "Make sure that you have communicated with the elderly, sick or shut-in. We don't want to lose anyone at all in the city of Newark to this storm, and we won't have to if we all stick together and look out for one another."