MIAMI - (AP) - New Jersey's highways, free of the usualtraffic of people heading to the shore and malls, instead carriedcaravans Saturday as the first rains of Hurricane Irene hit:tree-service companies getting into place for cleanup duty;ambulances taking patients to higher, dryer hospitals; New JerseyTransit buses moving evacuees to shelters.
Several coastal areas were under evacuation orders Friday. Somewere mandatory, some strongly suggested.
On Saturday, the orders spread to places low-lying placesfarther north. Residents of Hoboken, a gentrified city right acrossthe Hudson River from Manhattan, were told to leave voluntarily;those with basement apartments were ordered to evacuate.
The state bused 1,200 people in from shore communities to theSun National Bank Center in Trenton as a staging area. By earlyafternoon Saturday, they had all been moved to shelters elsewhere.
While the center was open, conditions were spartan.
Yavor Tenev and a group of friends from Bulgaria were spendingtheir summer working in the resort community of Ocean City for thesummer and had nowhere else to go when the evacuations began.
"There are a lot of people in there," he said, as he and hisfriends sat outside on a curb enjoying the last of the dry weatherto come for a few days.
The group of 20-somethings were moved from a shelter in Woodbineto Trenton and arrived just before 2 a.m. Friday, but said therewere no cots set up or blankets available so they could sleep.There was also no television, Internet or radios available. Thatmean they weren't sure what was going on with the storm.
They were offered food, juice and coffee and no shortage of airconditioning.
"It's freezing in there," said Stahislava Valkova, 21, as shemunched on a hot dog for breakfast. "There is nowhere to sleep,only places for the elderly and sick."
Rowan University in Glassboro scrapped plans for move-in day forfirst year students and instead welcomed 1,084 evacuees, largelyfrom Atlantic City. Students already on campus - most of themathletes - were told to go home. Some of those who could not getout joined a corps of volunteers, playing soccer with kids,unfolding cots and serving sandwiches.
Supermarkets were making it easy, putting bottled water at thefront of the store - if they still had any. They were facing runson provisions like potato chips.
Around the state's suburbs, many bird feeders had been takendown and portable outdoor basketball hoops leaned on the ground asprecautions against high winds.
Public transportation around the came to a halt by middaySaturday, as trains stopped running and incoming flights weresuspended at the New York area airports, including Newark Liberty.
Atlantic City casinos were closed for only the third time sincegaming began there in 1978. The only other times it happened wasfor Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and a state government shutdown fiveyears ago.
Forecasters said the storm would be most intense in the state byearly Sunday, most likely with its center just off the shore. Highwinds were expected to be felt across New Jersey. In coastal areas,they could be hurricane-force or nearly so, perhaps over 70 mph.And heavy rains - 6 to 10 inches - could cause floods on many ofthe state's already swollen waterways.
Storm surges of 3 to 6 feet were expected along the seacoast andthe Raritan and Delaware Bays. The effect could be even bigger ifthe storm arrives, as expected, in conjunction with an abnormallyhigh tide around dawn Sunday.
Tornadoes were also a possibility.
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