Aug 4, 2020
Hurricane Isaias Update Transcript With NJ Gov. Phil Murphy August 4
NJ Gov. Phil Murphy gave an update on Hurricane Isaias on August 4. He declared a State of Emergency for the storm and advised everyone to stay home. Read the transcript of the update here.
Phil Murphy: (00:07)
Hi, how are you? I’m good. Good morning. I promise you the heat is not an angle here to keep this short, but are we able to cool this place down? Okay.
Phil Murphy: (00:38)
Good morning, everyone and welcome to the New Jersey Statewide Traffic Management Center otherwise known as STMC. I am joined by transportation commissioner, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. Hi Diane. State Police Superintendent, Colonel Pat Callahan, Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso and the Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, Jared Maples. Before we begin, with a heavy heart, I must acknowledge the sudden passing last night of Shirley Rice, the wife of our dear friend and legislative partner, Senator Ron Rice. She was working as an administrator at Cal Berkeley when they met and the two were devoted to each other from that moment onward. After moving to New Jersey, Shirley served as Dean of Students at Essex County College leaving a tremendous impact in the lives of countless students.
Phil Murphy: (01:35)
She always made time for them. And as Newark Council President, another dear friend, Mildred Crump recalled, she also always made time for a game of cards with her friends. We are keeping Senator Rice and his family, I had the honor of speaking with him last night. And as you could imagine, even though a tough Marine, he is completely crushed. We’re keeping him, his son Ron and daughter Yuki, and their friends and family in our prayers today. May God bless Shirley’s memory and all who loved her. Switching gears, under the theme, if it’s not one thing it’s another, throughout the overnight and into this morning, we have been carefully tracking Tropical Storm ISAIAS as it has moved up the coastline. This is the first named storm to directly impact us this evening, this season rather, and we believe we are ready for it.
Phil Murphy: (02:32)
Last night, I signed an executive order placing New Jersey under a state of emergency for this storm. In addition, all state offices are closed. We urge all residents to stay off the roads and stay at home today. According to the current forecast, and I say current, because as you know, these things move around, ISAIAS will continue it’s northward March across New Jersey throughout the day, bringing heavy and sustained winds to the entire state. With the Western track of the storm, rain totals of up to four or five inches are now expected across the Western half of New Jersey with up to, as I mentioned, up to five inches possible in some spots with lessening amounts as we move East and down along the shore. We may experience some flooding in low lying areas or in other places which are prone to flooding. And to be sure, the entire state is under a flash flood watch.
Phil Murphy: (03:37)
We should expect gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour across most of the state with the potential for even more damaging winds in excess of 70 miles per hour along the coastal areas. There is a tornado watch posted for the entire state and depending on the counter you’re you’re in, some of those watches expire at noon and others at 4:00 PM today. According to the forecasters, this is a relatively fast moving system and it should be well on its way out of our neighborhood by later tonight and into tomorrow and the coming days should give us an opportunity to dry out. I think the general sense is that sort of rain picking up across the state within the next hour or so and that this is a phenomenon that will go in its most intensity into the early evening tonight. All of us up here and many more behind the scenes have been preparing for this storm. Since yesterday, multiple state departments, plus the Board of Public Utilities, the state police and the Office of Emergency Management have all been engaged.
Phil Murphy: (04:49)
First, given the expected winds, we should not be surprised to experience power outages across the state. Joe, they’re modest at the moment, but that’s not going to stay that way. I spoke personally with the heads of the three biggest providers yesterday. Joe’s been in touch with them constantly. We were engaged on Sunday as well, depending on the scenario, you could have outages, I think Joe, measured in the hundreds of thousands, but you’ll give us more color on that. Joe and the BPU, as I say, had been monitoring our electric service providers to ensure they are ready to respond quickly to any storm related outages and as I mentioned, I’ve had conversations directly with them as well. As a reminder, if you do experience a power outage, please call it in immediately to your electric service provider as these calls can help them better isolate where the trouble may be so they can better direct crews to restore the power. By the way, don’t assume your neighbor’s calling it in, call it in yourself.
Phil Murphy: (05:51)
And while everyone should just stay in today, should you go out, should you have to go out and come across a downed power line, please immediately report it to emergency services. Don’t try to drive over it. Don’t go near it. Get as far away from it as possible. We have had at least two fatalities, as I recall, since our time in government of folks who did not take that advice. Under Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the DOT and its partner transportation agencies are working together to ensure that service stations on the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway are at capacity with available fuel. In addition, they are making sure their equipment is fueled and ready to go if called upon to keep our roads clear and open for first responders. The department has also been inspecting and clearing the drains at problem spots along our highways to help ensure that the rain waters don’t flood our highways and create an even greater hazard.
Phil Murphy: (06:52)
And again, while we would prefer everyone to stay in, if you are out, if you have to be out on our roads and come across a flooded section, do not attempt to cross it, turn around. Please, do not drown. Especially with the flash flood watches in effect, some flooded streets may have currents swift enough to wash a car into them. And that has happened as well in our time here in office. The Office of Emergency Management will make regular weather and preparedness updates at our favorite, ready.nj.gov. Again, that’s ready.nj.gov and on their social media channels on Facebook at Ready New Jersey and on Twitter and Instagram each @readynj. Again, that’s ready.nj.gov. Facebook is Ready New Jersey and Twitter and Instagram are @readynj. We will continue to closely monitor this storm throughout the day as it makes its way across New Jersey and we will come to you with additional announcements should they become necessary. Hopefully, and this is our best case scenario, today will be just a wash out and tomorrow we’ll be back to summer sun. But in the meantime we hope-
Phil Murphy: (08:03)
Tomorrow, we’ll be back to summer sun, but in the meantime, we hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And please, folks. Stay in and stay safe. With that, please help me welcome the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (08:16)
Thank you. Good morning. So much of what the governor said is consistent with the message that I’m going to give you, almost all of it, actually. State highways, New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Atlantic City Expressway are fully prepared to address any flooding issues that we have on their roads as is the DoT on the state highway system.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (08:44)
But with the amount of rain that we anticipate getting today, drainage systems will have a hard time moving all that water. So we do expect flooding. I can’t emphasize enough, please do not drive through flooded areas. As the governor said, if you get stuck, it is going to be very difficult for us to get in there and get you out. The state police certainly have emergency response for that, but better not to count on that. Better to make sure that you’re not on flooded roads.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (09:10)
There is a car pull trailer and motorcycle ban posted for the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. The winds are expected to get significant enough to make car pull trailers and motorcycles struggle in the weather. We ask that you get that message out because it is important for us to make sure that everyone is safe. Transit is running a normal schedule as of now. That can change as the day goes on. If you have the need for information, please go to Twitter at @NewJerseyTransit where they be posting regular updates. As the governor announced, ready.gov is where you’ll find information on the state roads or at least be linked to the DoT site.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (09:52)
The department will be ready to support BPU after the storm is over to clear debris, fallen limbs, so that Joe’s team can get in there and get electric power restored as soon as possible. There are just some things that are important for me to remind you.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (10:10)
First, again, because you can’t say it enough, avoid standing water. Second, if you have to go out, please maintain the posted speed. In many places, that speed will be reduced. The concern is hydroplaning. When you hydroplane, it’s very difficult sometimes to feel like you can get control of your car. So if you maintain the posted speed, you’re going to have a lot better chance of being safe.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (10:32)
But I will reiterate what the governor said. If you don’t have to be out on the road today, don’t. It’s just a matter of a few more hours. And heck, we’ve been practicing that for the last few months, so we should be good.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (10:43)
If you’re on the road, please move over for our frontline responders. That’s our safety service patrols, our partners with the New Jersey state police, and any other emergency services that you see. If they’re aiding a car, what we ask is you move over one lane, and if you can’t, you reduce your speed by at least 20 miles an hour to safely pass them.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (11:04)
We will react to information that we get from TRANSCOM. TRANSCOM is a regional traffic management monitoring service that we use here in New Jersey, along with many of our partner states. And as they give us information, whether it’s about crossings into New York based on high winds, we will push that information out to all of you as soon as possible.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (11:25)
But I think the message today is, you’re going to have about five or six hours where it’s going to be very bad. We need you to stay inside and out of the winds and out of the rain. And as the governor said, tomorrow we’ll go back to a nice, hot August day and hopefully resume those activities which are important to us in the summer. Thanks, gov.
Phil Murphy: (11:45)
Thanks Diane. Thank you, Diane. And the TRANSCOM, am I right in saying, Diane, that the TRANSCOM limit of high winds that prevents crossings-
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (11:52)
Phil Murphy: (11:53)
Is 50 miles an hour, right?
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (11:54)
Phil Murphy: (11:54)
So that’s something that would obviously apply to any of the bridges, for instance, in and out of New York City.
Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti : (12:00)
Phil Murphy: (12:00)
Thank you, Diane, for that, and for everything, and for hosting us so graciously. With that, please help me welcome another great leader, the superintendent of the state police Colonel Pat Callahan.
Pat Callahan: (12:10)
Thank you, governor. Good morning, everybody. I’ll just offer you a few minutes from the state Office of Emergency Management perspective. For the past several days, we’ve been in constant communication with our federal, state, and county partners. FEMA region two has been phenomenal, as always, and actually this afternoon at 12:30, we have a national call of emergency management directors with the FEMA headquarters out of Washington, DC.
Pat Callahan: (12:35)
We did activate our state emergency operations center yesterday morning, as well as all 21 county emergency operation centers are currently activated. As far as deployable assets that we have, we have our New Jersey Task Force One, which is our urban search and rescue component, high-wheeled vehicles, as well as swift water rescue capabilities. We also have a cache of NJ OEM generators that we purchased with mitigation dollars in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Pat Callahan: (13:08)
And we have our all hazards incident management team ready to deploy anywhere with regards to the expected power outages to support BPU and DoT. The New Jersey forest fire also has active chainsaw teams ready to roll anywhere to make sure we can get those trees up and off of power lines.
Pat Callahan: (13:29)
I just encourage all the residents in the state to comply with your local emergency management guidance and orders, as well as those guidance issued by local government officials. And I know the governor mentioned it a few times, but ready.nj.gov, whether that’s high surf advisories, flash flood warnings, tornado warnings, all of those will be updated in concert with the National Weather Service throughout the day. So a tremendous resource with regard to preparedness throughout any type of hazard or weather event, but that’s ready.nj.gov. Thanks, gov.
Phil Murphy: (14:07)
Pat, thank you. Underscore a couple of items if I may, Pat, and then also one point as Joe comes up. Open lines and constant back and forth and support from FEMA region two, so we want to thank them for that. Secondly, open lines as well and constant communication with the White House, so we thank them for that.
Phil Murphy: (14:28)
And as Joe comes up, one of the topics that came up in both exchanges on Sunday and longer conversations yesterday, we’re dealing with a weather crisis in the midst of a pandemic. And so, it informs how we’re standing here today, face coverings, the capacity we’re able to have in this room. And frankly, we’re at that capacity. So I’m not sure we’ll be back here, just because of the space that we need.
Phil Murphy: (14:56)
But it also informs the public utilities, the electric service providers and how they man their trucks, their crews, including very explicit conversations about folks coming in from out of state, where we’ve got a pretty explicit list that’s been updated this morning about hotspot states.
Phil Murphy: (15:14)
So to say this is not an easy endeavor in the midst of a pandemic would be the understatement of the day. With that, please help me welcome another great leader, the president of the board of public utilities, Joe Fiordaliso.
Joe Fiordaliso: (15:27)
Thank you, governor. One of the things that the governor mentioned, and it’s really incumbent upon us not to mislead anyone, there is a potential that there will be hundreds of thousands of outages due to this storm. Again, it all depends on the track of this storm and it all depends on wind gusts. Wind can be our potential enemy here which can delay, obviously, restoration. So let’s hope that the wind does not get to the point-
Joe Fiordaliso: (16:03)
Let’s hope that the wind does not get to the point where it’s going to be detrimental to the restoration efforts, and let’s hope that we don’t have hundreds of thousands of outages as we go through the day, but that possibility exists, and I don’t want anyone to be under any illusion that it does not. We have, as the governor also mentioned, a minimal amount of people out right now, and we do expect that number to grow. There are staging areas throughout the state of New Jersey. We’re actually literally having thousands of out-of-state crews, which the governor alluded to, coming into New Jersey and manning those staging areas throughout the state. We should have the personnel necessary to restore as quickly as possible, but again, if those winds are in excess of 40 miles per hour, those folks can not go up into the bucket trucks and try to restore power. It’s dangerous, and obviously, we don’t want to put anyone’s life in danger.
Joe Fiordaliso: (17:12)
Also, the governor mentioned about downed wires. Please, please, please, don’t even go near them. They can kill you, and we certainly don’t want that to happen during this storm or any storm for that matter. It’s important, again, to call your utility if you lose power. They do not necessarily know that you’ve lost power, so it’s incumbent upon you to, please, reach out to your utility, let them know that you’ve lost power, let them know that it’s obviously a list that they’re going to continue to have and try to restore as many people quickly as they possibly can.
Joe Fiordaliso: (18:06)
It’s not going to be an easy task, but I know we’ll get through this. We’ll get through it successfully as we have always in the past. We can expect with the climate changes that are occurring on our planet more storms like this and the intensity being greater than we normally are used to. Please, stay safe. Take care of yourself. Take care of one another. We’ll be back to, quote, normal tomorrow, hopefully, and as we continue to dry out. Thank you very, very much. Thank you, governor.
Phil Murphy: (18:47)
Joe, thanks, buddy. Joe, thank you. Again, Joe, you heard it, it is possible. I wouldn’t say necessarily likely, but it is possible at a minimum that we could have many hundreds of power outages up and down the state. One provider at least said it could take as much as a week to get all of those houses and locations back up to full power, most of which could be resolved relatively quickly within a day or two or three, but that is a possibility. We hope that does not come to pass. But as I mentioned earlier, we’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
Phil Murphy: (19:24)
One of the things you don’t want to do is have all your eggs over here and miss something that’s over here, particularly as it late religious critical infrastructure. With that in mind, please help me welcome the director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Jared Maples.
Jared Maples: (19:42)
Thank you, governor, and good morning. I’ll begin and say that there are no specific known or credible threats to the state of New Jersey at this time. We remain in direct contact with our federal, state, and local partners, including the FBI and federal Department of Homeland Security to ensure that we have the most updated information in that regard.
Jared Maples: (19:59)
The other side that we discuss frequently is critical infrastructure security, as the governor mentioned, and making sure that all 17 critical infrastructure sectors are represented here in the state of New Jersey have the information they need to secure their facilities and people and mission, and then also that they can become resilient should an incident like a hurricane interrupt their abilities to operate. We’re working with them day to day and making sure that, again, we have that constant communication interaction between the two sides that they can continue operations and continuing their mission in securing the critical infrastructure of our state, which is so vital to every citizen.
Jared Maples: (20:36)
The other thing that we’re very concerned with is not a direct physical threat, but is disinformation. We want to make sure we continue to hammer that drum beat, that there is a real threat to disinformation, misinformation, and you should only get your information from legitimate government resources like ready.nj.gov or the other assorted webpages that are associated with our state government and our federal government, but then also from reputable media because they’re getting the information directly from events just like this, press conference.
Jared Maples: (21:06)
The disinformation campaigns are designed to show discontent and to take advantage of emergencies as they happen, and it is important for everyone to get only real and relevant information in a transparent and trustworthy fashion. We are dedicated to doing that, so please take advantage of our resources on njohsp.gov, and they can connect through all the other information that you possibly need to make sure you’re making informed decisions to protect your families, your workplaces, and your communities. With that said, I’ll turn it back over to the governor. Thank you.
Phil Murphy: (21:35)
Thanks, Jared. Thank you. I’ll take this down just for a second and take a few questions. Let me summarize. Jared, thank you. Let me summarize a couple of things here just to put the frame around this. We have a state of emergency specific to the storm. State offices are closed. We’re encouraging everybody… In fact, more than encouraging. We’re asking you to stay home unless you absolutely have to go out. The storm is tracking a little bit west of where we probably would have guessed it would have been yesterday, which means the rain, which could be up to five inches, is more likely heaviest in the western part of the state, but all of the state will get rain. All of the state is under a flash flood advisory. Every one of the 21 counties has a tornado watch expiring either at noon or at 4:00 p.m.
Phil Murphy: (22:24)
If you’re on the shore, you may hear that it’s tracking a little bit west, but the wings of storms like this can have some of the highest winds, so you could have gusts up to 70 miles an hour on the shore. You certainly will have riptides on the shore. There’s no part of New Jersey with this particular storm that will escape at least some of the brunt. Again, heaviest rains, it’s our guess that it’s probably more likely in the western part. Highest winds probably along the shore, but every county and every part of the state will get hit to some degree by this.
Phil Murphy: (22:58)
In terms of hours of intensity, within the next hour up until early to mid evening tonight would be my best guess in terms of what the sweet spot of this storm is, so you’re looking at somewhere between say six to nine hours of a fairly intensive weather experience as was mentioned by several of us. It’s a fast-moving storm. That is to some degree of blessing, so God willing it stays that way and it doesn’t just sit over on top of us. With that, we’ll take a couple of quick questions. Brett, you’re the obvious person to start with-
Phil Murphy: (23:33)
… because you’re the only one here in front of me here.
[inaudible 00:23:35]. It’s going to be upgrade to hurricane. I’ve heard talk on the news that it might [crosstalk 00:23:41].
Phil Murphy: (23:41)
It was last night upgraded. It came back down again. It’s a tropical storm, and it could go back up.
Is there a major fear of that or?
Phil Murphy: (23:49)
I think we’re concerned about this storm sufficiently regardless of what the category is that we’re here today with the warnings we have. I’m less concerned, I think my colleagues and I would be less concerned with the fine line between tropical-
Phil Murphy: (24:03)
… be less concerned with the fine line between tropical storm and hurricane.
Speaker 1: (24:05)
Yeah. What is the state doing, or what is your reaction, to the Rutgers football coronavirus outbreak? Are you still comfortable with leaving the fate of their season in the hands of the Big Ten, considering it’s a state university?
Phil Murphy: (24:17)
Yeah, I don’t have a whole lot more to add to that. It is our overwhelming sense, and I could say almost with complete certainty, that the outbreak was not related to athletic activity. So in other words, it was outside of the lines of their preseason preparations. And so if that’s true, it’s consistent where we’ve seen a lot of the outbreaks of late, as we’ve discussed. And again, without getting into the details, because frankly, I don’t know them in great detail, I’ll bet you a buck that they were related to indoor, closely congregated activities that didn’t have a lot of face coverings. You’re seeing that fallout in Major League Baseball. You’re seeing it in house parties in Middletown or LBI, et cetera.
Phil Murphy: (25:06)
If you look at the Last Dance, the baseball series, admittedly, which was all inside of New Jersey, the athletic reality there did not lead, as far as I know, to any infections, to the best of my knowledge, that is. That’s pretty impressive. But it is worth noting, conferences matter here, so what the Big Ten decides, what the NCAA decides, and frankly, what our posture is, for the moment, we would like to see things proceed, but it’s got a couple of elements here that are challenging. One of which is travel, as you all have asked us about, in particular to hotspot states, either teams coming from there or our squads going there and coming back to New Jersey. So I’d say TBD is the best way to conclude that.
Phil Murphy: (25:56)
Anyone else back there? Any … Sir. Hard to see. Do we have the microphone today?
Speaker 2: (26:03)
Phil Murphy: (26:03)
Speaker 3: (26:04)
Governor, a quick question for you and Colonel Callahan. Is there any update on the Alpine house party investigation? Are any charges pending? And are you both aware that there’s another pool party being advertised by a different promoter for that house this coming Saturday?
Phil Murphy: (26:20)
I have no update. Pat, do you?
Colonel Callahan: (26:24)
The attorney general’s office is-
Phil Murphy: (26:26)
The attorney general’s office is looking into it. I’ve got nothing specific to add, but we note with great interest, the potential for another party this weekend there. We note to file. Thank you.
Phil Murphy: (26:38)
Anybody else? Again, I … Brett, one more quick-
[inaudible 00:02:41]. There’s been a lot of response to your announcement the other day, or yesterday rather, about decreasing the indoor gatherings, but still saying schools will go forward. Some people say those don’t [crosstalk 00:26:53]-
Phil Murphy: (26:44)
What are your thoughts on that?
Phil Murphy: (26:55)
Listen. I mean, some of this, a lot of this, has do with what school looks like, and we’re still working with the hundreds of districts that are putting their final plans together. But looking with great interest on things like capacity management, now mandating face coverings for everybody, what’s the hygiene protocol, what’s the protocol in general, all those pieces, the remote learning piece, which we’re able to do because we’ve been able to eliminate the digital divide, has another benefit because it reduces capacity.
Phil Murphy: (27:31)
I also would say education, and education of our young people is, I’d put it, to use another phrase, in the essential line of business category. This really matters. We believe observing your faith matters, which is why we carved it out. A wedding matters, a memorial service for someone who’s passed matters. So we’re still working through on the district plans. There’s no two districts alike. There’s no one size fits all. We acknowledge that, they do as well. We are working through that process.
Phil Murphy: (28:08)
I would say one last thing, it’s not unrelated as to what the general reality of the virus is in our midst, as it relates to any of these decisions. So if we can continue to, if we can get a hold of this modest uptick and pull it back in, with the steps that we’ve taken, that’s a better environment in which to make a lot of decisions. It allows us more degrees of freedom.
Phil Murphy: (28:34)
So with that, let me … Sir, I’m sorry.
Speaker 4: (28:36)
Phil Murphy: (28:36)
Hold on one second.
Speaker 2: (28:37)
Speaker 4: (28:39)
Are you concerned that the upticks in crime elsewhere, New York and elsewhere, is moving into New Jersey, as we hear about more shootings, Newark over the weekend, and elsewhere?
Phil Murphy: (28:49)
I mean, I’ll speak for Pat and myself here, if it’s okay, Pat. The answer’s yes. We’ve been quite clear about that, and we’re not immune to it. So this is not just a New York or a Chicago phenomenon. We’ve seen it in communities around our state. It’s an American concern right now, and it’s probably the result of a whole series of cocktails, mixes that are coming together at the same time, which we all know generally what those are. It is our hope and aspiration that we get back and get our arms around this sooner than later. We work very closely with communities up and down the state, and we’ll continue to. So with that, again, I want to repeat, please folks, stay in. Unless you absolutely have to go out, stay in. Think late morning through early to mid-evening as the bulk of this. If we think it’s anything meaningfully different than what we’ve signaled to you today, this morning, we’ll come back to you and we’ll communicate. Ready.nj.gov is the best place to go.
Phil Murphy: (29:53)
I want to thank Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti for hosting us so graciously here, as always, Colonel Pat Callahan, President Joe Fiordaliso, Director Jared Maples, to our entire teams, stay safe everybody, stay dry, heed the warnings. God willing, we come through this standing strong, as one New Jersey family. And again, we hopefully have a day tomorrow where the sun is shining and we get to dry out a little bit. Thank you all.