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Hurricane Irene Cuts Short Jersey Shore Summer

Marvin Hardy drives screws into a sheet of plywood on Washington Mall in Cape May, N.J., on Friday, as he  boards up storefronts in preparation for Hurricane Irene. Mandatory evacuations were under way  affecting nearly 1 million residents and visitors in Cape May County, coastal Atlantic County and Long Beach Island, N.J.
Mel Evans
/
AP
Marvin Hardy drives screws into a sheet of plywood on Washington Mall in Cape May, N.J., on Friday, as he boards up storefronts in preparation for Hurricane Irene. Mandatory evacuations were under way affecting nearly 1 million residents and visitors in Cape May County, coastal Atlantic County and Long Beach Island, N.J.

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.