Nancy McAvey was like a lot of skeptical locals who were still unsure Saturday afternoon whether Hurricane Sandy would be as powerful as predicted.

“The only problem with the weathermen is they are the only people who can be wrong most of the time and still keep their job,” the North Wildwood resident said.

Still, she said she planned to evacuate her island home and head to Delaware County, Pa., to stay with her family, some of whom were driving down to help her.

“I think they just want to make sure I’m leaving,” she said.

Emergency management officials tried Saturday to at least get all barrier island residents to the mainland and away from the brunt of Sandy’s expected wind and flooding.

Cape May County has public shelters opening today at the Woodbine Developmental Center and Upper Township Middle School, while Ocean County is opening a shelter at the Brackman Middle School in Barnegat Township. The Cumberland County Technical Education Center in Bridgeton would also be open as a shelter today.

Gov. Chris Christie said Saturday that the state wants everyone evacuated from barrier islands by 4 p.m. today, and that after that emergency personnel would be blocking bridges so people could not get back on.

Thousands of locals therefore spent Saturday preparing to leave their homes behind. The sounds of circular saws cutting wood and hammers nailing boards could be heard echoing across most of the state’s barrier islands.

In Brigantine, Brian Graybill and his 7-year-old son, Kyle, stopped by a hardware store to get two four-by-eight pieces of plywood. Graybill said he is doing an extension on his house and needs the plywood to cover open areas for the doors.

Graybill said Saturday morning that he didn’t know where his family would stay during the storm. The Brigantine native said his family also lives on the island.

His main concern is flooding.

“Obviously, it’s out of our hands,” he said. “You have to let Mother Nature take its course, and hopefully it won’t be as bad as they think.”

Mary and Fran Gramkowski said they planned to evacuate their Brigantine house today, but on Saturday they were enjoying themselves at the Wildwood Buggy Bash in Wildwood Crest.

The event was a gathering of power-kiting enthusiasts. The sport uses kites to pull people seated in three-wheeled buggies or standing on various devices such as all-terrain skateboards and skis across the beach.

As Fran Gramkowski whipped around the sand in a go-kart with a sail attached, Mary Gramkowski said they would be going to their second home in Haddonfield, Camden County.

“What happens if the electric goes out? You don’t have heat, you can’t cook. Why not leave?” she said.

The Buggy Bash was supposed to continue today but ended Saturday because of the storm. Organizer Rich Miller said about 65 people were in town for the event, from many other states and Canada, and some were forced to leave days before they planned.

“There is a group of about 15 French Canadians who were planning to stay until Tuesday, but we told them they’ll probably have to bug out,” Miller said.

The Gramkowskis looked as if they were having a great time, but they said it was obvious they had to leave the shore today.

“You have to be safe,” Mary Gramkowski said. “It’s a lot easier to go somewhere and be safe than stay and be dead.”

Contact Lee Procida:

609-463-6712

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