New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano… (John Minchillo / Associated…)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continued to express gratitude for the federal government's help at a televised news conference Sunday in Hoboken, N.J.
With Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at his side, Christie sent love to New Jersey residents for their recovery efforts and promised guff – “my type of gentle persuasion” – to utility companies to help the nearly 1 million customers in the state who still lack power, most in central and northern New Jersey.
Every county in New Jersey has been declared eligible for federal disaster assistance, and Christie, a Republican, has remained a larger-than-life presence in a region where super storm Sandy's effects remained overwhelming.
“I’ve been all over the state, and everywhere I’ve traveled -- whether it’s a local shelter or a Red Cross shelter, an impromptu roadside table that neighbors have put together to provide food and drinks for people who are working -- this is the symbol of New Jersey coming together during a really difficult time," he said.
Christie said 11,000 utility workers were trying to restore power, and 8,000 came from out of state.
“I know that when I tell you we’re under a million people out of power from 2.7 [million], that that doesn’t mean a damn thing to you unless your power’s on," he said, drawing chuckles from his audience. "I get it, I get it, all right? So! We won’t stop working until every last resident has their power back on.”
Christie also emphasized that “we do not have a fuel shortage.” The gas is there, he said, but power outages trapped the fuel at refineries and in pipelines that are now up and running.
National Guard tankers were moving fuel to stations throughout the state, Christie said, adding that President Obama promised 22 million gallons of fuel to be split between New Jersey and New York. Christie said 100 BP gas stations had restored power and had fuel in their tanks.
The governor said 800 of the state’s 2,400 schools would open Monday, with more working to join their ranks.
Christie also announced the formation of a Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, which had already received $3 million in contributions, with $2.5 million coming from John Hess of the Hess Corp., which owns many gas stations in the state. On its website Sunday, Hess Express prominently displayed data showing how much gas each of its stations had, which Google and the U.S. Department of Energy published on a map.
Napolitano, appearing with Christie, called housing “the number one concern.”
“We lost a lot of housing stock here in New Jersey," she said. "We don’t even know yet which of the houses are reparable and which are irreparable losses. Those assessments are going on right now as well as finding temporary housing for individuals who can’t move back to their home right away.”
She added that officials were searching for apartments and hotels available as temporary Federal Emergency Management Agency housing and that the Department of Transportation was deploying 200 to 300 buses to transport riders between New York and New Jersey.
“We are not done with this storm by any stretch of the imagination,” she said.