The first signs of Hurricane Irene's approach have begun at the Jersey Shore, as wind speed and surf height have begun a steady increase that is expected to top out late Sunday.
Across the Jersey Shore, residents and local officials alike have begun preparing for the severe weather and rough surf that are expected to accompany the storm's arrival.
In Bradley Beach, yellow warning flags flew on Thursday as Department of Public Works employees and lifeguards began preparations for the impending storm.
Beach Supervisor Dick Johnson oversaw backhoes as they removed storage boxes from along the beachfront. Lifeguards were tasked with pulling anchored swimming ropes from the ocean. Eventually, the lifeguard stands themselves will be removed as the entire area awaits the arrival of Irene.
Johnson expects that the heavier, unmanageable surf won't arrive until Saturday and advises anyone considering entering the water to think twice.
"Don't be foolish and try to go out in that," he said.
Johnson explained that lifeguards will be on duty as long as the weather permits them to do so.
"We'll be back here on Monday cleaning up and getting things put back together," he said.
At grocery stores in Wall Township, shoppers have been preparing for the coming fallout from Hurricane Irene for days, managers said.
At the A&P Store on Route 35 and Warren Avenue, several pallets of bottled water sat outside early Thursday morning, waiting to be stocked into the steadily dwindling supply inside.
Some customers, however, could not wait that long and had already started to pluck packages from the pallets.
Manager Bill Rogers said supplies were running low on staples and “comfort foods’’ but said he expected shipments later Thursday, replenishing supplies.
Jim Ireland, of Point Pleasant Beach, was among those with a cartful of bottled water Thursday morning.
“It’s not like it’s going to go to waste,’’ Ireland said. “We needed it anyway, but I’m buying extra, just in case.’’
Ireland, who said he lives four blocks from the beach, said he was preparing for the worst. He was considering moving his cars to places inland and was securing boats as well.
“This could be the worst we’ve seen in 40 years,’’ he said.
In addition to milk, eggs and other staples, Rogers said the store was selling chips, cakes and other “comfort foods.’’ He was also running low on batteries, but expected another shipment by afternoon.
“I think this is going to be a big one,’’ Rogers said.
At the ShopRite on Route 34 near Lakewood Road, milk and eggs were in short supply early Thursday morning as a bustle of people roamed the store with carts full of staples.
A manager at ShopRite declined to comment on the store’s preparations, referring questions to a corporate communications office.
Santina Stankevich, a ShopRite spokeswoman, said ShopRite stores – all of which are located throughout the Northeast – typically sell a lot of bread, eggs, milk and chicken leading up to major weather events.
In Manasquan, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Dave Kircher explained that the borough is closely monitoring weather forecasts and planning their storm response.
Kircher explained that residents of Manasquan in the beachfront area and the neighbors surrounding the Glimmer Glass and Stockton Lake are particularly vulnerable during sever weather events.
While the borough keeps a running list of possible shelters, which includes both Manasquan High School and Manasquan Elementary School,
"We don't usually designate shelters until the last minute," Kircher said, noting that the size of the evacuation and the number of people being moved will affect how many shelters need to be opened and where.
Should a countywide evacuation called, a different set of protocols will be put into place. The Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management has yet to make such a determination, but did offer a number of tips for storm readiness.
The county's keys for readiness are as follows:
- Prepare – Assemble a Kit of Emergency Supplies – Batteries, flashlight, radio, first-aid kit, medications, food and water to last three or more days, can opener, cooking tools, toiletries.
- Create an Emergency Plan – Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan a way to contact one another, such as enlisting the help of a third party in another state as a contact, and review what you will do in different situations.
- Stay Informed – Listen to local radio and television for the latest information on storms and other emergencies. Review what warning sirens are used in your community to alert residents of major emergencies.
“Preparing for the worst makes dealing with it that much easier,” Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said. “The likelihood that you and your family will survive a nor’easter, hurricane or other emergency depends on the preparations that you make now.”
Arnone has also stressed financial readiness.
“To bring your readiness to the next level you should prepare your finances and consider making yourself available to help your neighbors in an emergency,” Arnone said.
The county advises: "Consider your insurance and financial needs in the event of a disaster. Also, take time to prepare a household inventory. If an evacuation is necessary, be sure to have cash or credit cards at your disposal."