Christie, who urged people last year to "get the hell off the beach" as Hurricane Irene approached, urged residents of the state's narrow barrier islands to move to higher ground. By midday on Monday, he said, some people who had not gone inland may be 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," he said.
Those who had chosen to stay were putting themselves in harm's way, he said.
Christie said every school in New Jersey was closed for Monday and more than half the districts had already decided to call off classed for Tuesday. Most businesses across the state seemed to be closed, even some fast-food places as far from the shore as Cherry Hill.
At New Jersey's southern tip in Cape May, Victorian Hotel owner John Cooke got all his guests checked out by Sunday. But as president of the Chamber of Commerce, he decided to stay himself so he could update other business owners on the situation. "It's important for me to be here to be here to communicate," he said.
Atlantic City's 12 casinos closed for only the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalized gambling here. State parks also shut down.
Residents of northern New Jersey river communities braced for another round of the flooding that has become commonplace for them. Pompton Lakes has been hit by flooding several times in the last decade, most notably last year after Irene swept through the area and left dozens of businesses and homes severely damaged.
Some in the town were already putting belongings out near the curb, in advance of the storm.
"People are worst-case-scenario-ing it," said Kevin Gogots, who has lived in the town since the early '80s. "They're figuring, divide and conquer: They'll take the stuff they want to save and put the rest out. Of course, if the street floods again we'll just have things floating around."
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Delli Santi reported from Ewing Township. Associated Press writers Wayne Parry in Point Pleasant Beach, David Porter in Pompton Lakes and Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton contributed to this report.
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