Hurricane Irene Leaves Flooding, Power Outages in Northeast

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praises federal response, state evacuations

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2011— -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said his state is facing record flooding and power outages after Hurricane Irene barreled across the Northeast this morning, but successful evacuations and federal coordination have reduced potential loss of life in the storm.

"Early reports are very difficult," Christie told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, after the storm came ashore in New Jersey after 6 a.m. "We have over half-a-million people that are now without power. We have 15,000 people in 45 shelters across the state; 250 roads are closed; and we are going to look at a record flooding situation here, both at the shore and inland."

According to reports Saturday, some 500 seniors refused to evacuate from high rises in Atlantic City, but Christie said efforts will soon be made to ensure they have safely weathered the hurricane.

"The good news is that we evacuated over a million people from the Jersey shore in 24 hours without incident," Christie said. "And if those people had stayed at the Jersey shore, I think we'd be talking about significant loss of life. And now, hopefully, we're not going to be talking about that."

Christie urged residents to stay in their homes until the storm had passed over the state, warning that one woman in New Jersey had been swept away in flood waters after getting out of her car in high waters.

"We are far from out of the woods on the storm itself," Christie warned. "So, please, stay in your homes until the storm has completely left New Jersey. Then we'll be able to get through this together in the aftermath, but I need people to stay at home."

Christie said that continued flooding is his greatest concern, after an already rainy August in the state has saturated the ground.

"In the short term, in the next couple of days, my big concern is the inland flooding and the shore flooding and how we're going to deal with folks who maybe have to be evacuated from their homes and need to be sheltered," Christie said.

Christie said the federal government has provided all the resources his state has needed to respond to the threat of Irene, praising FEMA as "very responsive" in preparing for the storm's move up the East Coast. He said he will call upon Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for additional aid after the storm has passed.

"Right now, the cooperation between New Jersey and FEMA has been great, and I'm going to be calling Secretary Napolitano shortly to ask for some more help," Christie said.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said that flooding and power outages throughout the East Coast remain his major concern, and echoed Christie's call for those in the path of the storm to stay indoors until the storm has passed their area.

"After the storm's moved through, a lot of people want to get out and start driving around and see what's going on," Fugate said. "Unless it's really urgent, we ask people to stay home, stay off the roads. Let the power companies and the emergency workers do their job."

He praised evacuation efforts in lower Manhattan for reducing the threat to New York City residents from potential flooding.

"You cannot prevent the damages from these storms when they're -- you know, come in, but we can minimize risks of loss of life and safety," Fugate told "This Week." "Then we'll start working with the states and the local officials about what kind of damages and what kind of repairs need to take place."

FEMA mobilized six urban search-and-rescue teams, which all remain in staging areas. Fugate said state and local teams in North Carolina "have already completed 67 swift-water rescues where they've actually had to go out in boats and get people that had been trapped or cut off by the storm."

While Hurricane Irene weakened as it moved up the East Coast, moving from a Category 2 storm on Friday to a Category 1 storm by the time it reached land, Fugate said the storm still poses a threat through continued heavy rain and potential tornadoes.

"People tend to think, well, if it's not a Category 4 or 5, we're not going to have a lot of impacts," Fugate said. "The category of the storm really doesn't have much to do with rain… Very big storm like Irene, we're getting a lot of reports of heavy rain. We've already had flash-flooding."

Fugate, who served as director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management from 2001 through 2009, said that federal response efforts to major hurricanes has improved after the devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"We shouldn't have to wait until a state is overwhelmed to begin getting ready, that we should be able to go in before the governor's made a request, have supplies ready, have our teams in the state, and work as one team, not waiting for damages to occur and that formal request to come," Fugate said. "So we've learned to really work as one team, not as separate levels of government, and to put everything together early before the storm hits."

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events