The first blow from Hurricane Sandy as it turned toward the East Coast on Monday flooded Atlantic City and other New Jersey shore towns, forced road closures, stranded residents who did not heed evacuation orders and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands. Gov. Chris Christie blasted Atlantic City's mayor for encouraging people to stay in shelters on the barrier island rather than moving inland.
"It shouldn't have been an option," Christie said.
He was also upset that some people elsewhere refused to heed his order to evacuate barrier islands. "It's just not acceptable conduct," he said.
He said that people stranded by early Monday evening would have to hunker down for the night. Rescuers would not be able to reach them until Tuesday morning, he said.
"I have never seen so much water in the inlet," said Bob McDevitt, president of the main Atlantic City casino workers union and a lifelong Atlantic City resident, who was riding out the storm in his home. "When I think about how much water is already in the streets, and how much more is going to come with high tide tonight, this is going to be devastating."
Gov. Chris Christie was hoping that low tide on Monday afternoon would give those who had not yet evacuated the state's barrier islands a chance to get out. In some places, they were stuck: By mid-afternoon, all three ways into and out of Ocean City were closed, and Atlantic City was cut off, meaning that those who had not left already were likely stuck for the duration of the storm.
"This is not a time to be a show-off, this is not a time to be stupid. This is the time to save yourself and your family," Christie said at a news conference.
Those who did not heed evacuation orders, he said, were putting themselves and rescue workers in harm's way, calling them "stupid and selfish."
An evacuation order Sunday helped clear out Atlantic City and shut down casinos. The city's historic boardwalk remained mostly intact Monday, despite rising floodwaters and an old, 50-foot section at the north end that broke up and washed away. Officials instituted a 6 p.m. curfew.
"It looks like it's going to be worse than the storm of '62, which was monumental," said Willie Glass, Atlantic City's public safety director. "Saving lives and making sure everyone is safe is our priority."