- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey got pounded Friday by heavy rain and strong winds that were expected to bring coastal flooding this weekend, even though the state is no longer in the anticipated path of Hurricane Joaquin.

Gov. Chris Christie said the shore can rest a bit easier now that the hurricane is projected to head out to sea instead of striking the coast.

“It looks like we dodged a bullet this time,” Christie said Friday afternoon after conferring with emergency management personnel in Sea Isle City. “Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

The wet, windy weather affecting New Jersey has been a tale of two weather systems.

The first, which has been dumping rain over the state for days, is expected to continue through Friday, at least. The National Weather Service issued coastal flood and high wind warnings along the shore and Delaware Bay through Sunday evening. Forecasters say inland flooding is no longer expected.

Forecasters say gusts could reach 60 mph in some spots, knocking down limbs and power lines. Blowing sand could also cover roads. Flooding was occurring Friday afternoon in low-lying areas of southern New Jersey including Atlantic City, Ocean City, the Strathmere section of Upper Township, and Sea Isle City, where tow truck drivers were being called on to retrieve cars stranded in flood waters.

Work crews trucked sand in to the Ortley Beach section of Toms River, which was devastated by Superstorm Sandy three years ago, and used heavy equipment to spread it onto the already-eroded beach. Belmar pumped water out of a low-lying coastal lake near the beach, and Brick was pushing sand back onto a protective steel sea wall built last fall in another area that was wrecked by Sandy.

The state temporarily closed its waters to shellfish harvesting effective at sunset Friday as a precaution due to expected heavy rainfall. The closing affects more than 720,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds in the state’s ocean waters and estuaries, as well as all recreational harvesting. Clams, oysters and mussels are filter feeders that can accumulate harmful bacteria carried into waterways from the land by storm water runoff.

The second storm, Hurricane Joaquin, is moving north from the Bahamas. After days of uncertainty about the path it would take, forecasters now expect it to turn further into the Atlantic Ocean. In recent days, some weather models had predicted Joaquin could make landfall somewhere between the southeast states and Long Island.

Christie declared a state of emergency Thursday because of the storms and canceled presidential campaign events for Friday in New Hampshire so he could be in New Jersey to direct the emergency response.

He said Friday the state won’t get as much rain as it initially thought but that New Jersey’s four southernmost counties are still likely to suffer moderate to major flooding.

Christie told residents to be prepared to respond to flooding and power outages and said shelters will be available if needed.

Christie said Cape May and Atlantic counties are expected to get 1 to 3 feet of flooding and waves of 5 to 10 feet.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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