SEASIDE HEIGHTS — Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that life should be back to normal for most of New Jersey by the start of next week, with power restored to almost everyone and long lines at gasoline pumps gone, clearing the way for a difficult rebuilding period.
The governor said rebuilding would include restoring the state’s most iconic attractions, but he cautioned that the Jersey Shore won’t look the same next summer as it did last summer.
“By Monday morning, when everybody gets up, for the overwhelming majority of the state life will be back to what they perceive as normal — schools will be opened, gas stations will be opened, power will be returned to their homes, the roads will be clear and their water will be clean,” Christie said in a briefing Friday that was part pep talk. “Then we move into the next phase.”
Christie warned that rebuilding would take months, or even years, and urged residents to be patient and to persevere.
“I know we will get there, because we are tough folks,” he said in the shadow of the partially demolished Seaside Heights Boardwalk, which he walked for the first time since Superstorm Sandy hit. “We don’t mess around.”
Calling the storm “our Katrina,” the governor said he spent a difficult day visiting the battered area from Sea Bright to Seaside Heights, where he spent his youth, and the place where he has brought his children.
But, he said, “just because we are down today doesn’t mean we won’t be up tomorrow.”
The governor said power would be restored to almost everyone in the state by Saturday night, and that he would likely decide by early next week whether to end gas rationing, which cut the long lines that formed as a result of many stations in North Jersey losing power and being unable to operate their pumps.
Jersey Central Power & Light had said late Thursday that it wouldn’t be able to restore power to thousands who lost their electricity due to Wednesday’s northeaster until next week. But on Friday, it said power would be back to most customers by Saturday night.
The governor said discussions on power issues were held with utility executives late Thursday and early Friday, but did not elaborate.
He also announced that residents of all of Long Beach Island, except heavily damaged Holgate, would be able to return to their homes Saturday and stay in them if they are inhabitable.
Eighty percent of schools were able to open by Friday, he said, and even more will be ready Monday.
Christie said he did not know how many people will need long-term housing assistance. He said 4,500 people remained in shelters, and an untold number were staying with friends and relatives. He said the state still could not put an estimate on the cost of the damage caused by Sandy.