NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — On the day Gov. Chris Christie announced a plan to monitor billions of dollars in federal aid to rebuild ravaged parts of New Jersey from Superstorm Sandy, another massive storm unleashed its fury on the state, dumping large amounts of snow as it made its way up the East Coast on Friday.
The storm forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights into and out of Newark Liberty International Airport and the suspension of train and bus service in northern New Jersey. The northeastern part of the state was expected to get a foot or more of snow as the storm intensified overnight.
Christie, known for his admonition to "Get the hell off the beach" before Tropical Storm Irene hit the state in 2011, this time urged residents in less colorful language to stay off the roads.
"Stay home, avoid unnecessary travel; if you have to drive, be smart and be careful," Christie said at an afternoon news conference. "We're prepared to make the bridges and the roadways passable, but we're urging people to stay home."
Christie said the speed limit on Interstate 95 north of Newark had been reduced to 45 mph. He said the state department of transportation had 3,000 trucks ready to deploy.
New Jersey Transit suspended rail service on its Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton and Midtown Direct lines and suspended bus service north of Interstate 195. The trains will be suspended through Saturday and the buses indefinitely, the agency said.
In a scene reminiscent of the days immediately after Sandy in late October, lines formed at gas stations as people rushed to fill up before the worst of the storm hit.
Rain in some areas and a wintry mix in others early in the day changed to snow by early afternoon. In Newark, where Mayor Cory Booker told residents to prepare for widespread power outages, freezing rain fell in late morning but soon changed to snow and fell steadily throughout the afternoon and evening.
Outages remained low compared to the number created by Sandy. Public Service Electric & Gas, the state's largest utility, reported 2,800 customers without power, mostly in Elizabeth, but by 11 p.m. said it had restored most of those. Jersey Central Power & Light reported a handful of outages in Monmouth County.
About 2.7 million homes and businesses lost power for up to 13 days after Sandy and a subsequent nor'easter in early November.
At the shore, some towns urged the evacuation of barrier islands. Brick Township and Toms River issued voluntary evacuation orders for areas still recovering from Sandy more than three months ago.
"We're telling people, if they can, find shelter elsewhere," said Edward Moroney, a Brick Township spokesman.
Parts of the coast were expected to see waves up to 12 feet and minor to moderate flooding during high tide. Toms River emergency management director Paul Daley said it is "very likely" some areas in the township may flood, including land near the Barnegat Bay. Those areas have become more prone to flooding since Sandy struck in late October.
A blizzard warning was posted for northeast New Jersey, calling for up to 14 inches of snow. Up to 10 inches was forecast for central and northern areas of the state and 2 to 5 inches for south Jersey.
The big storm was having a big impact on air travel. Newark Liberty International Airport was one of the airports in the Northeast with the most cancellations, according to airline tracking website FlightAware.
Many schools in the state dismissed students early in deference to the deteriorating road conditions.
The blizzard zone included the state's largest city, Newark, with a population of over 275,000. Booker compared the snowstorm to a late October 2011 storm that dumped heavy snow and felled trees and power lines, causing major outages.
He told residents to prepare for the storm as if they were preparing for Sandy and to help the most vulnerable.
"Today, one of the biggest things you can do is a small act of kindness," he said. "Make sure that you have communicated with the elderly, sick or shut-in. We don't want to lose anyone at all in the city of Newark to this storm, and we won't have to if we all stick together and look out for one another."
Associated Press writers Wayne Parry in Pleasantville and Angela Delli Santi in Trenton contributed to this story.
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