TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - Chris Christie delivered a stern warning Friday to New Jersey residents and tourists, urging them to heed warnings and evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Irene.
"The most important bit of advice I can give to any of the 8.8 million citizens of this state is think - don't react - think. Think about what you need to do to protect your life and the life of your family," the governor said at a news conference.
As for those people who were still on New Jersey beaches earlier Friday evening, Christie sternly ordered them to "get the hell off the beach." The governor delivered that message both in his news conference and via Twitter.
The governor also advised people in the Garden State to help one another battle through the heavy rains and strong winds expected to come with Irene.
"New Jerseyans have to help other New Jerseyans. You have to repair yourself and you have to be prepared to help your neighbors and your friends and your colleagues and your relatives," Christie said, adding "there's never a government big enough to take care of 8.8 million people one by one."
The governor also lamented earlier that he heard "some dopes on television" saying a Category 2 hurricane was "nothing more than a bad thunderstorm."
As of 7 p.m. Friday, Irene began hitting the East Coast with fierce winds and rain. Tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph were already hitting the Carolinas as Irene continued to spin her way toward New Jersey.
National Weather Service projections made it look likely that the storm would hit New Jersey as a hurricane sometime Sunday. If that happens, New Jersey state climatologist David Robinson says, it would be only the third hurricane to make landfall in the state in at least 200 years.
And forecasters warned that even if the eye of the storm skirts the already rain-soaked state, severe floods, fallen trees and downed power lines are nearly assured.
The National Hurricane Center is predicting storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 3 to 6 feet above ground level along the Jersey shore. This would be accompanied by large waves.
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for coastal New Jersey earlier Friday.