Christie: Go Back to Work, Open Schools, Calm Down
Governor Chris Christie and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Hoboken on Sunday, urging residents to get their lives back to close to normal.
The state should be as good as back to normal by the end of next week, Gov. Chris Christie said during a press conference in Hoboken Sunday afternoon.
"A week ago today we were prepping for the storm to come tomorrow," Christie said. "It's going to be a long and difficult process to get us back to normal."
Christie urged school districts to open on Monday if possible and people to go to work. New Jersey Transit has increased buses — about 200 more between New York and New Jersey — for the Monday morning commute.
New Jersey Transit restored 90 percent of its bus service as of Sunday afternoon and four of its rail lines had begun running again.
"People should go back to work tomorrow," he said. All roads — except four by the barrier islands — were reopened as of Sunday.
No announcement was made yet about when PATH service will resume. Both the tunnels and the substation that powers the PATH system suffered heavy flooding. The governor also urged people to carpool and not wait until rush hour to drive to work.
"We have to work together and be patient," Christie continued. The governor was joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer in downtown Hoboken. Earlier, he had toured the Elks Lodge, where for the last few days thousands of hot meals have been served to the community.
"Hoboken is at the forefront of my mind," Christie said. Senators Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg also attended the press conference, as well as Congressman Albio Sires.
Christie said the gas rationing will remain in place until the power is fully restored. As more gas stations get their power back, lines have begun to shrink.
The governor also emphasized that there is no gas shortage in the state of New Jersey at the moment, but that it's just not possible to get to it at the moment. There's no need to stock up on gas, Christie said.
"People should just calm down. Do not panic about it," he said.
Christie also announced that 22 million gallons of gas were sent down to be distributed between New York and New Jersey.
Thousands of electricians — including 8,000 from out of state — continue to work on restoring power to those who are still in the dark. Over the past days, Christie said, about 1.8 million people had their power restored.
As of Sunday afternoon, almost a million New Jersey residents were still without power, down from 2.7 million earlier in the week.
By the end of next week, Christie said he expects everybody to have power, except in the places that are so damaged that power restoration is impossible.
The water in New Jersey is safe to drink. Only four communities in the state still have a boil water advisory, Christie said.
A total of 4,400 representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are present all over the state. All New Jersey residents who suffered damage are encouraged to call 800-621-FEMA to register for relief funds. All of New Jersey's counties are subject to an emergency declaration, Christie said. New Jersey residents who have lost their job due to the hurricane could be eligible for disaster unemployment assistance.
As far as Tuesday's elections, Christie said that all New Jersey residents will be able to vote. Back up generators will have to power some districts in the state. County clerk's offices are open, where people can go to vote.
"Polling places are going to be fine," he said, "nobody should have an excuse not to vote on Tuesday."
Those who have been displaced from their homes will be able to vote by fax or email.
While a lot has been done to get back to normal, "there is still real hardship out there," Napolitano said. "We are not done with this storm."
A total of 4,000 people were still in shelters around the state as of Sunday afternoon, a number that does not include those who have evacuated to friends or family.
Christie said that he was happy to see New Jerseyans come together and help each other out in one of the biggest natural disasters to hit the area.
"This state is full of tough, griddy, no nonsense, emotional people," Christie said. "This state is a family. We pull together like a family."