Reporting Tony Hanson
CAPE MAY COUNTY, N.J. (CBS) – A mandatory evacuation of the New Jersey shoreline is underway, as Hurricane Irene approaches.
So, as the Jersey shore prepares for a near-direct hit from Irene, hundreds of thousands were evacuating — some more quickly than others (see previous story).
In order to preserve and protect public safety, officals said as of 9 p.m. on Friday, a curfew between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. will go in effect and will remain until further notice in the areas of Atlantic County that are under a mandatory evacuation order. This will not prevent individuals who are lawfully evacuating, from doing so.
KYW’s Tony Hanson reports that authorities in Atlantic City say this first-ever mandatory evacuation of all of the city and the barrier islands is a necessary precaution to avoid disaster should the hurricane bring its full fury.
Authorities have looked to Katrina for lessons. That’s why they are telling residents to get out, and get out now.
But authorities know and fear that some people will ignore the warnings at their own peril, perhaps putting rescue crews and others at risk as well.
“Mother Nature is very strong and unpredictable, and that is why we are taking the steps to make sure everybody is safe,” says New Jersey State Police lieutenant colonel Thomas Gilbert. “Human lives come first, property comes second.
“We’re all very concerned about the property and infrastructure down here, but we want to be able to spend our time doing the right things when we are in that critical part of the storm. And that should not be trying to get to people who made bad mistakes about staying,” Gilbert says.
Atlantic City was providing buses to help get people to shelters inland.
KYW’s Hadas Kuznits reports that Atlantic City evacuations got off to a rocky start this morning for some people who must rely on the buses to take them to shelters away from shore.
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A first group was taken off Absecon Island by bus about 6AM, but another group waited until about 11AM.
“You’ve got people on oxygen tanks, diabetics and all that, and they don’t have a clue where we’re going,” complained one woman being evacuated from the Uptown Complex Elementary School, “and they’ve been out here for hours. It’s hot!”
That group was eventually bused to Rowan University.
As shelters filled up, emergency management employees were working to secure new locations.
Virginia Santiago, with Caring Senior Citizens, says it’s scary not to know where you’re being taken or how long you’ll have to stay.
“They’re saying they’re not sure how long it’ll be, and that it depends on the damage to buildings (and) if there’s any flooding. Then they’ll need to clear everything before the rest of us can go back to the apartments,” she told KYW Newsradio. “So that’s why they’re saying maybe three days but they’re hoping maybe less.”
“It’s not like we boarded anything up — we just kind of took off,” one woman in Cape May County told KYW’s Mike DeNardo. “We closed everything up. So, I’m sorry we didn’t put sandbags or anything.”
Kevin Carlson, a Cape May Court House resident who lives about a quarter mile from the bay, said he was sticking it out.
“I’m moving everything from the ground floor to the upstairs,” he told KYW’s Steve Tawa. “We’re probably going to get flooded on the ground floor — you’ve got to deal with a worst case scenario.”
Tolls were suspended on the southern portion of the Garden State Parkway and along the Atlantic City Expressway, to move the outflow.
There were long lines at many gas stations as residents and vacationers fueled up for the move inland.
Thursday night, one family estimated that two gas stations in Wildwood, NJ each had 50-60 vehicles waiting, and it took an hour to get filled up.
The last mandatory evacuation of the South Jersey coast was for Hurricane Gloria, in 1985.