NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—As Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast today, county and city officials joined the state government in declaring a State of Emergency.
New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill called for a mandatory evacuation of flood-prone areas near the Raritan River, and ordered residents not to drive on city streets, beginning Monday at 9am.
"As of 9:00 a.m. Monday the City will be shut down. Non-emergency personnel will not be allowed on City streets. Emergency personnel should have proper identification," read a statement made public by the city at 7:23pm.
"All city services will be suspended until further notice," including tomorrow's scheduled garbage pickup, said the statement.
The effects of the storm are already being felt across New Brunswick, as strong winds have blown debris all over, in some cases obstructing roadways. Meanwhile, businesses and residents have prepared for the strong winds, predicted to exceed 60 mph, and potential flooding.
Residents who live between Neilsen Street and the Raritan River (New Brunswick Apts., Riverside, Plaza Sq. Apts., Riverwatch Apts., and Hiram Sq.) are encouraged to evacuate tonight.
However, beginning at 9am tomorrow, those residents will face mandatory evacuation orders, according to the city's official statements.
Residents of the Riverside Tower apartment complex were also told by city police that they may also face an evacuation order tomorrow morning.
As it did during Irene, the Lord Stirling Community School on George Street has once again opened as a shelter "for anyone requiring safe haven from the storm."
Last year, about a dozen local residents stayed in the school, while hundreds more from Southern New Jersey were bused to stay at the College Avenue Gymnasium on Rutgers University campus.
It appears that several buses full of evacuees are once again on their way to the campus from South Jersey, where the storm is expected to hit the hardest. This time, evacuees are being sent to the Rutgers Athletic Center and Livingston Recreation Center in Piscataway.
Just minutes after Gov. Chris Christie concluded a press conference in Pompton Lakes, Rutgers University announced that all Monday and Tuesday classes were cancelled.
However, the University insists that offices and departments will remain open at the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus. For further updates on Rutgers, workers can visit http://campusstatus.rutgers.edu.
Shortly before 3pm, the New Brunswick school district announced it would close the city's ten schools until Wednesday.
The city's Parking Authority also opened six parking decks to city residents, free of charge: Gateway Center, Ferren Daily, Lower Church Street, Paterson Street, Plum Street, Morris Street, and New Street.
"If you park in flood-prone areas such as Dennis Street, Richmond Street, John Street, Riverside Apts., Plaza Sq., or Charles St. please take advantage of the space in the public parking decks to both prevent your car from being flooded and to keep streets clear of disabled vehicles," read a statement posted on the city's Facebook page.
"Residents of other streets can also use the NBPA decks," the announcement added. Parkers may be asked to show ID or a parking hangtag to prove their residency upon exiting the deck.
City residents are also entitled to up to 10 sandbags, beginning Monday at 8am, if they visit the Department of Public Works headquarters at 400 Jersey Avenue.
Meanwhile, the county has yet to communicate whether or not their massive administration building and courthouse in downtown New Brunswick will be open for business.
A statement issued by Freeholder Director Chris Rafano directed residents to listen the radio for more information.
"If [a resident is] inquiring whether specific County operations are impacted they should listen to WCTC or New Jersey 101.5.”
A woman who answered the county's Public Information Bureau at 8:30pm said she was unsure if the administration buildling or courthouse would open, and instructed callers to call again tomorrow morning or listen to 98.3FM.
In contrast, the city government has been sharing frequent updates via their official Twitter account: @CityofNewBruns.
The city has already posted 22 storm-related messages so far, well ahead of the pace set during Irene, when only fourteen such messages were posted before, during, and after the storm's impact.
In the wake of Irene, the city's parking authority also established a Twitter account, using the handle @NJNBPA.
The city's public information officer left the administration in December 2011 and was replaced by Russell Marchetta in January.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.