After days of anticipation, Hurricane Sandy is finally reaching Monmouth County, and residents are being reminded to get to a safe place before the full force of the storm is upon us.
Hurricane Sandy was packing sustained winds of 85 m.p.h. early Monday morning as it drew closer to what forecasters predicted would be a direct hit on the New Jersey coast.
A forecast released at 5 a.m. Monday indicated the storm had gained strength as it tracked closer to the New Jersey shore coastline.
A hurricane force wind warning as well as a marine warning predicting wave heights between 18 and 24 feet were in effect for the entire New Jersey coast, issued by the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly.
The NWS office said in a statement issued early Monday morning that the strongest winds and highest seas from Sandy would come Monday afternoon and Monday night. Wind gusts in upwards of 80 m.p.h were forecast.
In addition to its forecast statement, the Mount Holly office took the unusual step of calling on those who have not evacuated barrier islands in New Jersey to do so.
"If you are reluctant, think about your loved ones," the statement said. "Think about the emergency responders who will be unable to reach you when you make the panicked phone call to be rescued. Think about the rescue/recovery teams who will rescue you if you are injured or recover your remains if you do not survive."
The chilling message was similar to one the NWS office in New Orleans issued before Hurricane Katrina struck that area in 2005.
Heavy rains are also possible causing inland flooding near streams and rivers. A full moon on Monday could make the flooding issue worse according to the latest forecasts.
In towns like Middletown, Wall, Sea Bright and Manasquan evacuation orders came on Sunday night for residents, especially those near the water, to get to a safe location. Even before the heart of the storm had reached New Jersey the coastal towns were already feeling its wrath as the ocean was churned up putting on an impressive but dangerous show for those brave enough to go near the boardwalks.
More evacuation orders are possible throughout the storm but for those residents wishing to leave early the county has established shelters in Wall and West Long Branch. In an effort to help the process run smoothly reception centers are being established in each town so that residents can be transported to the shelters in an orderly manner.
Sunday also brought closures at the local, county and state levels and also a disruption in mass transit for anyone looking to travel in the next few days. Many local school districts as well as colleges and universities will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.
As the gigantic storm began to set its sights on the Jersey Shore, the hurricane center grew even more confident in its forecast track.
"There is little change to the forecast track or the track guidance since the last advisory," a forecast statement said.
The Mount Holly office statement was more to the point.
"If you think the storm is over-hyped and exagerrated, please err on the side of caution. We wish everyone in harm's way all the best."
Patch will continue to have coverage of the storm as it develops and in the days after while local towns clean up from its impact.