NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Between 5,000 and 10,000 customers are without power as Hurricane Sandy’s impact intensified throughout the day.
No longer a hurricane, Sandy made landfall five miles south of Atlantic City just over an hour ago.
Meanwhile, 80 local residents moved in to Lord Stirling Community School on George Street to wait out the storm, by far the largest collection of county residents seeking shelter.
Hundreds of residents from southern counties, where shelters were already at capacity, are staying on the Livingston campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway.
New Brunswick was delgued by rain showers and heavy winds throughout the day, beginning early this morning.
“Sandy will strike our region directly. Options for it to miss us have run out. This is our worst case scenario,” read a briefing from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Mt. Holly, NJ released this afternoon.
City Hall’s front door was locked during the business day, but a back door was open for the skeleton crew that showed up to hold down the fort.
Benches and a table where elected and appointed officials sit during City Council meetings were covered in plastic due to City Hall’s notoriously leaky roof.
City Public Information Officer Russell Marchetta, a resident of Morganville, was in his office manning the city’s Twitter account and Facebook page, which have been more utilized in recent days than ever before.
Throughout the day, police and other officials assisted residents in flood-prone areas in evacuating their residences.
The areas where mandatory evacuations were ordered were: Hiram Square, Riverwatch Apartments, Plaza Square Apartments, Riverside, and the New Brunswick Apartments.
While no residents took the city up on their offer to stay in Lord Stirling Elementary School last year, the shelter will be nearly half-full tonight, and Marchetta said more were welcome.
Residents were encouraged to stay with friends and family, before opting to stay at the city’s shelter.
Marchetta said the Lord Stirling School will hold up to 200 evacuees. If it fills up, the city will open New Brunswick Middle School to city residents in need of safe haven from the storm.
A state of emergency declared by Mayor James Cahill ordered non-emergency personnel not to drive on city streets starting at 9am, but it largely went unenforced as police attended to more urgent matters.
Rutgers University announced their employees would be exempted from the travel restrictions to get to work, but the city confirmed there were not granted any exemption at all.
The University at first asked staff to show up for work, but revised their policy to leave it to supervisors whether to require their employees to work. This morning, the school issued a statement saying that all offices would close at noon.
Marchetta said the only exemptions besides emergency personnel were for “healthcare providers” and patients in need of treatment.
The city ordered Route 18 closed overnight, but was asked to re-open it by the State Police this morning.
Shortly after 8pm, the city announced Route 18 was once again closed, as high tide approached.
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, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.