- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

BAY HEAD, N.J. (AP) - Flooding at the Jersey shore was a concern Monday as a massive winter storm barreled down on the coast and Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency for New Jersey.

The National Weather Service issued a coastal flood warning from 11 p.m. Monday through 7 a.m. Tuesday. The storm comes as parts of the shore still struggle to recover fully from Superstorm Sandy more than two years ago.

High winds are expected to push water into low-lying coastal areas, and significant beach erosion is expected. Police departments in towns up and down the shore warned residents to move their cars off the streets and away from the water, using municipal garages or parking lots if necessary.

A late Monday afternoon forecast from the weather service predicted 18 to 24 inches of snow for Monmouth and Ocean counties, with 10 to 18 in Atlantic County and 8 to 10 in Cape May County.

By 3 p.m., police in West Wildwood said the shore town was experiencing “minor tidal flooding on all streets.” Ocean City warned that many streets would become flooded and impassable during the storm, and Stone Harbor police warned that it might be difficult for residents near the water to realize flooding was happening because of heavy snow cover overnight Monday into Tuesday.

Manasquan even allowed residents to park on their lawns during the storm to get vehicles off the road so snowplowing could be done.

“We have the potential for flooding in Monmouth and Ocean counties and the bays,” Christie said Monday. “We’re obviously concerned about it.”

Christie said he directed Robert Martin, the state’s environmental protection director, to monitor the status of the shoreline.

A coastal expert says the winter storm should cause “significant but not extreme” beach erosion at the Jersey shore. Jon Miller of Stevens Institute of Technology tells The Associated Press that the storm will take a chunk out of new dunes that haven’t had a chance to establish themselves. But he says the damage will be less than that that of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The difference between this type of storm and Sandy is that the sand eroded from the beach will mostly end up in offshore sand bars that can be redeposited on the beach in the spring or summer,” he said. “In Sandy, there was a lot of sand removed from the system and deposited in deep water, on the streets and in the bay that was lost from the system. The beach should be able to recover, although it will remain vulnerable in the short term.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection says it will consider emergency requests from towns to dump snow removed from the streets into waterways if they have nowhere else to put it. The practice is generally prohibited because of contaminants in the plowed snow.

Belmar is opening its municipal gym as a warm-up center at 8 p.m. for those without power.

Toms River has hired a heavy equipment company to quickly rebuild its beaches if they are seriously eroded by the storm, and it had over 200 pieces of public works equipment on the road as the storm began.

The storm is expected to cause moderate flooding in oceanfront communities from midnight to 1 a.m. Tuesday. Back bay areas tend to flood several hours after the oceanfront high tide.


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

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