Area wind gusts 07.01

Gov. Chris Christie assured residents Saturday that help was coming, promising generators and water to the area less than 12 hours after devastating storms came through the region.

“We are fully engaged,” Christie said after meeting with officials at the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness in Egg Harbor Township.

While this type of storm is not unusual for this time of year, he said, “what is unusual is that the effects were so widespread.”

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Downed trees — striking houses, cars and power sources — were the biggest problem.

More than 160,000 Atlantic City Electric customers — mostly in Atlantic County — remained without power as the governor spoke. He said most should have electricity restored by the end of the day on July Fourth. A few, however, might have to wait until the end of the week. That estimate, he stressed, was based on the damage from the first storm. Another expected to hit the region Saturday night could push that time frame back.

“We’ll be calling on power companies throughout the state to assist Atlantic City Electric,” Christie said.

A limited state of emergency was declared in parts of Atlantic County. While Christie did not order people off roads, he did suggest they only travel if necessary, leaving the roads clear for emergency crews to do their jobs.

All of the hospitals in the area had power, but Christie said he could not give exact times for how long any lost electricity.

“This moved upon us very quickly,” he said. “The devastation that was caused is very significant.”

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson pointed out it was bigger than that caused by Hurricane Irene.

But unlike during Irene, Christie noted, Atlantic City was still open for business.

“All of the casinos have power,” he said. “The Tourism District also all has power.”

Christie tasked the National Guard with delivering generators and water to the area. He also said fuel could be a problem, but he would make sure that got through as well.

“Right now, our county pumps have enough gas,” Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles said after the news conference.

Christie also said the State Police had been requested to back up work being done by the Sheriff’s Department. Balles said some of his officers didn’t know when they would be going home because they had been working the roads where traffic signals were down.

“Our uniform patrol officers are out just about everywhere assisting with intersections,” Balles said. “When there is a state of emergency in this county, we’ll be there until the situation is rectified.

The Department of Transportation was working to get the traffic signals back online. Most of the Black Horse and White Horse pikes were without lights.

Christie added that communication was a big issue with lines down, saying that it was difficult to know if there were additional deaths or injury from the storm

He said Verizon was contacted to see if temporary cell phone towers could be put up.

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