WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency on Saturday as Hurricane Sandy barreled up the Atlantic with the East Coast in its sights.
NJ Transit began preparations for a shutdown of service at 4 p.m. on Sunday. It's expected to be completed by 2 a.m.
On Saturday, Christie called for a mandatory evacuation of barrier islands from Sandy Hook to Cape May and Atlantic City casinos by 4 p.m. on Sunday. He said that all state parks would be closed at noon on Sunday.
In order to make it easier for people to leave the coastal areas of the state, Christie said tolls would be suspended on the northbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway and the westbound Atlantic City Expressway beginning 6 a.m. Sunday.
Power companies have advised the governor that the combination of existing fall foliage and the sustained rain and wind could generate power outages ranging from seven to 10 days.
In Ledgewood, N.J., close to 70 people have been waiting for hours for a truck from the Midwest to bring generators to the local Home Depot.
Oliver Minot from Mendham has been waiting since 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
"I think that the group that has been here has been extremely patient," Minot said. "Most of the people here are husbands with kids and wives at home that are little bit scarred that if lights go out they want to make sure their kids have the proper lighting, food and heat."
Minot says he had one for Irene but it broke a few months ago. "You are able to pretty much able to run your refrigerator, television, portable heaters, electric blankets."
The governor also said all state offices will be closed Monday.
Officials say Hurricane Sandy is shaping up as a "state-wide, serious weather event," and that businesses and residents need to prepare. Flooding conditions may be made even worse by two cycles of high tides that will be problematic for low-lying areas in the state on Monday morning.
New Jersey residents are pouring into grocery and hardware stores to stock up on supplies. Sean Lacon of South Orange went to his local Home Depot on Friday, but couldn't find anything he needed.
"No batteries, no flashlights, generators were gone. It was a madhouse and people actually came on Thursday and wiped them out," Lacon said.
Reservoirs in the state were being drawn down and efforts made to clear leaves.
From the farms in the Jersey Highlands to the auto repair shops along the Passaic River in Paterson people were already scrambling to prepare for Sandy.
At Phil Green's Sun High Orchards in Randolph, dozens of pre-schoolers were squealing with delight as they navigated a sea of pumpkins while Green sized up what he needed to do in advance of the storm that's expected to hit Monday.
"I am going to take down at least one of my big tents," he said. "Rain I can handle, snow like Halloween last year, that was a disaster."
Green said because last year’s freak snow fall hit in the midst of full foliage it wasn't until he was pruning his orchards in the winter that he "realized he full scope of what had happened."
The city of Paterson’s North Main Street runs along the banks of the Passaic River. Several employees at auto body repair shops lining the road were sizing up which vehicles were worth driving to higher ground.
Auto body shop owner Anthony Gardner has been at the same location for a decade and experienced the ravages of flooding several times.
"I am not going to let it catch me again this time," Gardner vowed. He said he lost everything when Hurricane Irene hit, including his customers’ cars which got submerged under 10 feet of water.