Updated: State of Emergency Declared by Gov. Christie as Hurricane Irene Nears
The National Guard is being mobilized. Current track has major storm hitting New Jersey late Saturday, early Sunday.
Gov. Chris Christie signed a state of emergency declaration today (Thursday, Aug. 25) ahead of the incoming Hurricane Irene.
He urged tourists to abandon their plans for a weekend trip to the Jersey Shore and for residents to instead immediately focus on hurricane preparedness.
The forecast track of Hurricane Irene is expected to cause significant impacts regardless of its exact course, forecasters from the National Hurricane Center warned in an update released at 11 a.m. today.
An air mass coming across North America will not be enough to stear Irene clear from the eastern seaboard, and the storm will still be packing hurricane-force winds when it is in the vicinity of New Jersey.
"I'd rather be wrong here," said meteorologist Steve DiMartino of NYNJPAweather.com, who said he agrees with the forecast track put out by the hurricane center.
"Saturday night into Sunday is not going to be very pretty in New Jersey," DiMartino said, predicting the storm would cause a 3- to 5-foot storm in Ocean and Monmouth counties, and pack potential wind speeds of 75 to 100 mph. on the coast. Inland counties will see winds between 50 and 70 mph, he said.
But the reality is that forecasters will have to "now-cast" the storm surge and wind speeds, DiMartino said, explaining that much of that specific information will vary depending on how much the storm will weaken once it initially hits North Carolina, its first point of impact. The storm could weaken rapidly, he said, or actually gain some strength when it re-emerges into the Atlantic Ocean and begins to travel up the coast.
One thing is for sure, DiMartino said: this storm may be one for the record books.
"I have not seen this type of situation developing, except in the record books when I was in college," he said.
New Jersey has already seen above average rainfall for the month, making potential flooding more severe.
State Climatologist David A. Robinson said Irene's potential for problems is compounded with the rainfall that the state has already seen.
The Raritan Basin had upwards of nine inches of rain this month, while the normal rainfall is usually around four and a quarter inches, Robinson said.
As a result the rivers are running high as it is, and there is little room to put the rainfall that is expected in this area, Robinson said.
The storm forecast predicts a potential of more than 10 inches of rain in parts of New Jersey, Robinson said.
"We could be faced with flooding that rivals the flooding of (Hurricane) Floyd," Robinson said.
Strong, sustained winds may potentially uproot trees, down power lines and complicate travel. Winds could gust up to 50 mph, with hurricane force gusts possible, Robinson said.
Forecasts are still taking shape as the days progress, but the agreement across those forecasts is that if the hurricane does make landfall in New Jersey, there will be problems.
"There is a lot of consensus in the forecast models that New Jersey will be very close to this storm, (and) the inescapable threat is that there is a major threat here," Robinson said.
Robinson said that it is important that people take the proper precautions.
"I really hope people just find a safe place to stay and ride it out," he said. "That was the only thing that worried me back in March of 2010; people didn't understand that noreaster was so strong and they were out and about on their Saturday adventures."
This story was updated at 3 p.m. Aug. 25, 2011.