KETR

Hurricane Irene Cuts Short Jersey Shore Summer

Aug 26, 2011
Originally published on October 4, 2011 2:07 pm

Rain from Hurricane Irene has started falling off the coast of the Carolinas. All the way up to Maine, residents are preparing for the storm, which is expected to pound much of the East Coast this weekend.

On the Jersey Shore, Cape May County officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation.

The small community of Stone Harbor sits on a barrier island, and early Friday morning, the sounds of tourists were replaced by drills as business owners covered windows with plywood.

Joan Neumann was visiting her sister, but she will wait out the storm back home in Flemington, N.J. However, first she stopped to look at the main street in town.

"The T-shirt shops, the fudge shops, the cheese shop, the movie theater, the bars — they're all boarded up," said Neumann as workers in the background lowered hanging baskets of flowers and placed them on a truck bed.

Police drove through the streets with loudspeakers announcing a mandatory evacuation that became effective at 8 a.m. on Friday.

Stone Harbor resident Cynthia Sosnowski spent Friday morning preparing her house, which included pulling magnets and photos off the refrigerator.

"We've got all our precious things — family photos and important papers with us and we're taking our dog," says Sosnowski.

Heading out of Cape May County, there was a steady stream of cars all day Friday.

"We have a year-round population of 96,000," said Lenora Boninfante, communications director for Cape May County. "In the summertime at the height of our season — and we're right in the middle of our summertime here in Cape Mae County — there can be anywhere up to 750,000 people."

All along the East Coast, governors have declared emergencies and ordered evacuations. In Washington, D.C., Sunday's dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial has been postponed.

In Philadelphia, the mayor advised those in flood-prone areas to stay with friends and family. And in New York City the public transportation system will shut down at noon on Saturday.The storm already is disrupting flights.

"The airlines have already — two days ago — started giving us permission to redo flights with no cost to the client," said Syracuse travel agent Lou Lemos.

Back in Stone Harbor, authorities are doing everything they can to encourage people to evacuate. To those who refuse, one official suggested they write their name, address, Social Security number and next of kin on a 3-inch-by-5-inch card and then place it in their left shoe.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block. Rain from Hurricane Irene has begun lashing the Carolinas. All the way up to Maine, residents are preparing for the storm, which is expected to pound much of the East Coast this weekend. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made this emphatic point this afternoon.

Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE: You know, I saw some of these news feeds that I've been watching upstairs of people sitting on the beach in Asbury Park get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You're done. It's 4:30. You've maximized your tan. Get off the beach.

BLOCK: Along the New Jersey Shore, Cape May County officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation. NPR's Jeff Brady is there, and reports that neighborhoods along the beach are now eerily empty.

JEFF BRADY: The small community of Stone Harbor sits on a barrier island, and this morning, the sounds of tourists were replaced by drills.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

DOMINIC PERU: My name is Dominic Pireau(ph). I live in North Wildwood. I'm helping my sister board up her store in Stone Harbor because they say we're supposed to get a real nasty storm.

BRADY: Police drove through the streets, loudspeakers blaring.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is a mandatory evacuation in Stone Harbor.

BRADY: Stone Harbor resident Cynthia Sosnowski spent this morning preparing her house, which included pulling magnets and photos off the refrigerator. Sosnowski lives just a few blocks from the beach. She and her husband moved as much as they could out of the first floor of the house.

CYNTHIA SOSNOWSKI: And we've got all our precious things - family photos and important papers with us - and we're taking our dog. And that's just about all you can do. Cleaned up everything, so things wouldn't going to be floating.

BRADY: To evacuate, Sosnowski joined a line of cars miles long leaving Cape May County this afternoon. County spokeswoman Lenora Boninfante says evacuating all the residents and visitors here is a huge undertaking.

LENORA BONINFANTE: Well, in Cape May County, we have a year-round population of 96,000. However, in the summertime, at the height of our season - and we're right in the middle of our summertime here in Cape May County - there can be anywhere up to 750,000 people here in Cape May County.

BRADY: All along the East Coast, governors have declared emergencies and ordered evacuations. In Washington, D.C., Sunday's dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial has been postponed. In Philadelphia, the mayor warned those in flood-prone areas to stay with friends and family. And in New York City, the public transportation system will shut down at noon tomorrow. The storm already is disrupting flights. Lou Lemos is a travel agent in Syracuse, New York.

LOU LEMOS: The airlines have already - two days ago - started giving us permission to redo the flights with no cost to the client that if they're in the markets where the hurricane is headed or even possibly headed.

BRADY: Back in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, residents Judy(ph) and Miles Truesdale(ph) made last-minute preparations this morning before leaving.

JUDY TRUESDALE: Took in all the porch furniture.

MILES TRUESDALE: Double lines on the boats.

TRUESDALE: Double lines on the boat, took down some of the screens.

TRUESDALE: Crossed our fingers.

TRUESDALE: And crossed our fingers and pray.

BRADY: You think that's going to be enough?

TRUESDALE: It's going to have to be enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TRUESDALE: That and hopefully a little help from Mother Nature.

BRADY: Authorities here are doing everything they can to encourage people to leave. To those who refuse, one official suggested they write their name, address, Social Security number and next of kin on a three-by-five card and then place it in their left shoe. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.