Gov. Chris Christie slammed Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford for sheltering people on the island during a live-streamed press conference Monday night.
As of Monday afternoon, about 135 people remained in city shelters. The city's plan at that point was to move them to Pleasantville High School, adding to about 2,100 others bussed out since noon Sunday.
"If you are on a barrier island now, do not try to get out now," Christie said. "Get to the highest possible point you can, hunker down ... until 7 a.m. tomorrow to call authorities. I'm extraordinarily disappointed in elected officials who directed people (in contradiction) of an order from the governor."
Other state governments are meanwhile mobilizing high-water vehicles to send to first responders who are standing down for now due to increasingly intense winds, Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said earlier today.
About 1,800 people have stayed behind in high-rise apartment buildings in Atlantic City.
The city's shelter sites have a combined capacity of 3,000 people.
"It keeps people on the island," Christie said. "You might as well stay in your homes. ... It's just not acceptable conduct. And now I'm going to have federal and state emergency management personnel with down wires and everything else, risking their lives, because Mayor Langford didn't want people to be angry?"
Christie was referring to residents who were bussed to multiple shelters during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. In some cases, they were stuck on the busses for hours.
"If the governor's point was valid - which it isn't - he could have handled it after the fact, " Small said. "There was a plan in place."
Some first responders, however, said they found the shelters lacked supplies when they arrived with resident who needed assistance getting there.
Councilman George Tibbitt agreed.
“When he doesn’t call to get information from his own commander who’s been involved the whole time, it’s shocking and unbelievable,” Tibbitt said.
Tibbitt referred to Atlantic City Tourism District Commander Tom Gilbert, Christie’s public safety liaison in the district and a consistent presence throughout the storm as with most other critical events in the resort.
During his press conference, Christie had few specific details on the sheltering situation in Atlantic City. He explained that by saying his information came through Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, who was unreachable late Monday.
Christie also said a woman died of a heart attack while being evacuated from the city. Atlantic City Police Captain Frank Brennan could not confirm that, nor could fire officials. Atlantic City firefighters took over emergency medical services after flooding got too deep for ambulances.
“Some people called for help, complaining of chest pains, and (firefighters) went to get them,” said Tibbitt, who heads City Council’s Public Safety Committee. “Whether anyone died later on in the hospital is unconfirmed. But no one died in their care.”
Christie said offering shelters discouraged people from leaving before the storm intensified.