Jersey City Calls for Mandatory Evacuations for Some Residents in Low-Lying Areas; Opens Armory as Another Evacuation Site


Image of Hurricane Irene taken by NOAA on August 27

Jersey City officials are now calling for a mandatory evacuation of all residents of the lowest-lying areas of the city who live in ground or first floor apartments effective today:

  • Residents residing in ground floor/1st floor buildings for all streets east of Greene Street from Essex Street north to Christopher Columbus Drive
  • Residents residing in ground floor/1st floor buildings for all streets east of Washington Boulevard from Christopher Columbus Drive north to 18th Street
  • Residents residing in ground floor/1st floor buildings in Port Liberte
  • Residents residing in ground floor/1st floor buildings in Society Hill
  • All of Country Village

Here are the maps of the affected areas, provided by the mayor’s office:

“At this time we are asking people in the mandatory evacuation zones to please leave for higher ground,” Mayor Healy says in a statement released to the press around 1 pm. “If you have somewhere you can go with family and friends, then please do so. If not, please relocate to one of the city’s emergency shelters.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management announced at 2:30 pm that it will provide free bus transportation to the six shelters from four makeshift bus stops near the mandatory evacuation zones. City officials note that anyone who takes one of the free buses will not be able to choose which shelter they are taken to. Buses will begin running at 3 pm today and make trips each half hour afterward until the weather prevents them from doing so.

Here are the bus stops (look for either a Board of Education bus or a Jersey City Recreation Department bus or van):

  • Society Hill: at the front gate
  • Country Village: in the Our Lady of Mercy parking lot (Sullivan Drive and Bartholdi Avenue)
  • Downtown: in front of the Pavonia PATH station and in front of the McDonald’s at Newport Centre mall
  • Port Liberte: by the strip mall on Chapel Avenue

The city has added the Jersey City Armory to the roster of emergency shelters, so there are now six opened for residents who want to evacuate: at PS 4 (107 Bright Street); PS 7 (222 Laidlaw Avenue); PS 17 (600 Bergen Avenue); PS 38 (339 Stegman Parkway); Dickinson High School (2 Palisade Avenue); and the Jersey City Armory (678 Montgomery Street).

In addition, after reports of no pets being allowed at any of the shelters raised plenty of hackles, the city this afternoon announced it was opening one pet-friendly shelter, at the Pershing Field Community Center (Summit Avenue and Pershing Plaza). It opened at 5 pm today.

(For a Google map of those locations, click here.)

“Residents in mandatory evacuation areas are encouraged to seek refuge with family and friends who reside in higher areas or areas that will not be as severely impacted as Jersey City,” the city announced at 12:45 today. “If these residents have no place to go, they should evacuate to the Jersey City Armory.”

Any senior citizens or disabled persons who need transportation to one of the city’s emergency shelters can call 201-547-5684.

Jersey City officials had already called for voluntary evacuations of all residents living in the low-lying areas of Jersey City. While different maps demarcate different areas that are most prone to flooding and storm surges, low-lying essentially means anything Downtown, on the Hackensack riverfront and the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood, as well as the mostly industrial swath of land around and south of Liberty State Park.

According to the Hudson County storm surge map, a little less than half of Jersey City (the purple area in the map) is vulnerable to flooding from storm surges created by category 1 or 2 storms.

Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer also issued a mandatory evacuation order for all ground floor units in Hoboken earlier this morning, and continues to ask all Hoboken residents to voluntarily leave town.

Hurricane Irene made landfall at approximately 7:30 this morning in North Carolina, bringing with it sustained winds of 85 mph, making it a category 1 storm, and has since moved up the coast a bit.

The most recent alert from the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center says that the storm is expected to stay at hurricane strength until after it passes our area.

“Irene is forecast to remain a hurricane as it moves over the mid-Atlantic coast and approaches New England,” the service said at 5 pm. “The hurricane is forecast to weaken after landfall and become a post-tropical cyclone Sunday night or early Monday.”

The local office of the National Weather Service says our area will begin to be hit with “dangerous winds and heavy rains” tonight.

“Sustained tropical storm force winds are expected to begin late this evening, with hurricane force winds developing Sunday morning. Maximum winds are forecast to be in the 55 to 75 mile per hour range, with gusts to 85 miles per hour.”

The National Weather Service has a few tips for those riding out the storm.

“If staying in a home, turn the refrigerator to maximum cold and keep it closed. Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances,” the agency advises. “Fill the bathtub with water in case the tap water becomes unavailable after the storm. This is for cleaning and flushing purposes. Do not drink it.”

PSE&G expects “significant equipment damage and extended customer outages” as a result of the storm, and is making final preparations to deal with both.

“Our state has never before experienced a storm of this magnitude. PSE&G will have about 6,000 employees supporting the restoration effort, including 840 linemen and 540 tree contractors available to respond to outages once the hurricane pulls away,” PSE&G president and COO Ralph LaRossa said yesterday. “We expect significant damage from the extraordinary wind and rain expected to pummel New Jersey this weekend. Full restoration could take between one and three weeks.”

He adds that PSE&G will only send its repair crews out when it deems it is safe to do so, and will focus on restoring power and/or gas to priority customers like hospitals first.

“We appreciate the patience and cooperation of our customers as we deal with what may be an unprecedented event,” he said.

In addition to widespread electric outages, PSE&G expects the heavy rain and predicted storm surge to result in gas outages. Water could enter the utility’s gas distribution system, as well as flood customers’ basements and gas appliances. Customers are reminded to call PSE&G at 1-800-436-PSEG to report gas odors, and contact their local fire department and municipal construction office to receive assistance in pumping the water out of their basements.

If you lose power, PSE&G recommends first checking your neighborhood. If you are the only one without power, check your fuse box for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses. If that’s not the problem, look outside at the wire between your house and the utility pole. If it is down, report it immediately to PSE&G.

If power outages are widespread, PSE&G will activate its Outage Twitter account to update residents on where the power is out and when it might be restored.

The National Weather Service says there is a 5 to 10 percent chance of hurricane-force winds in Jersey City (74 miles per hour of more), and an 80 to 90 percent chance of tropical-force winds (39 miles per hour or more).

It has also once again upped its predictions regarding storm surges in Jersey City.

The service now says there is an 90 to 100 percent chance of storm surges of 2 feet or more in the most extreme coastal regions of Jersey City, including the southern tip of Paulus Hook and a few spots along the Hackensack River waterfront. There is a 80 to 90 percent chance of similar surges in the Marion neighborhood, and between a 5 and 30 percent chance of the same in a number of other neighborhoods in the city, including Newport, near Lincoln Park and in the industrial area surrounding Liberty State Park.

But the National Weather Service’s storm surge predictions still make clear that the exact surge is very hard to predict. It is also forecasting that there is a 10 to 20 percent of extreme surges over 7 feet in the Newport and Paulus Hook areas, for example.

“Storm surge is highly dependent on track, intensity and speed of the storm as it approaches the coast,” the local branch of the service said a little before 4 pm. “The combined effects of storm surge and storm tide pose a serious threat with several feet of water inundation possible along coastal locations.”

The Jersey City Police Department is asking residents to halt all driving tonight at midnight.

“With the anticipation of Hurricane Irene arriving in our general vicinity late Saturday afternoon, vehicular traffic should be restricted between midnight Sunday through the duration of the storm or otherwise notified,” JCPD chief Tom Comey said yesterday. “With the expected increase in calls due to storm-related incidents, we are concerned with our ability to respond to stranded motorists in a timely fashion, as stranded motorists will be properly prioritized.”

City officials are urging residents in low-lying areas who aren’t leaving to move their vehicles to higher ground today. Parking rules are suspended citywide today through Monday (with the exception of Monmouth Street, where no parking will be allowed beginning 6 pm tonight to ease traffic into and out of the Jersey City Medical Center). The city also says all municipal and public school parking lots will be open for overflow parking.

Jersey City officials are asking residents to remove any items that could become projectiles as a result of high winds, including patio furniture, grills, construction equipment, and bicycles. They are encouraging residents to have a preparedness kit ready with batteries, water, flashlights, and charged cell phones, as well as any immediate supplies such as food, medicines, and important papers. For the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s guide to hurricane preparedness, click here.

Garbage collection for Sunday night has also been suspended and will be rescheduled for Wednesday night.


Image of Hurricane Irene taken by NOAA on August 26

Jon Whiten

co-founded the Jersey City Independent. He is currently the Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.