Christie keeps downplaying flooding, says reporter ‘making up’ criticism
Since this weekend Gov. Chris Christie's been saying flooding and related damage from this weekend's massive storm left no "residual damage" and that he hasn't heard any criticism in response.
But some residents of South Jersey hardest-hit by the storm beg to differ.
"I was in my waders in three feet of water and my friend is saying Gov. Christie is on TV saying it's not that bad," Maggie Day, owner of Nesting children's boutique on Third Avenue of Stone Harbor, told Philly.com this weekend. "Oh yeah? Gov. Christie should come down here and get in his fishing waders and live my life."
Christie, appearing on CNN early Sunday, was asked whether officials in New Jersey were caught off guard by major flooding seen along the southern New Jersey Shore all day Saturday. In the Wildwoods, where hundreds of people were evacuated Saturday, officials have said flooding was worse than they saw during superstorm Sandy.
“Let’s keep this in perspective, Jake (Tapper),” Christie said. “North Wildwood and the Cape May County area was the least flooded area during Hurricane Sandy and had almost no damage in that area of the state. And so to compare it to Hurricane Sandy, you’re not comparing it to what happened in the rest of the state.”
The worst of the flooding this weekend, as expected, occurred along the southern coast in Atlantic and Cape May counties, according to meteorologist Dan Zarrow. Many homes were flooded on North Wildwood's west side. Cape May, Stone Harbor and Ocean City saw record flooding as well, with impassable streets in many parts of town.
As of Sunday, Stone Harbor's Third Avenue still looked like this, according to a Facebook post by the Seven Mile Times:
Max Sorensen paddling down 3rd Ave in Stone Harbor this beautiful morning...
Posted by Seven Mile Times on Sunday, January 24, 2016
Wildwood police were still reporting flooding along several streets Sunday as well. Surf City Police said Sunday they were overwhelmed with calls about which roads were passable as flooding continued, though some of it had receeded by then.
Down Township Mayor Bob Campbell told NJ Advance Media he estimated damage of $100,000 to $200,000 in his community, though protective measures taken after Sandy helped prevent worse problems.
Christie, however, has said the flooding wasn't as bad as it could have been, as the water began to recede on Sunday morning.
North Wildwood Police on their Facebook page reported a crest of over 9 feet during Saturday morning's high tide and flooding up to Atantic Avenue on most streets.
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello told Philly.com that the flooding was "absolutely worse than Sandy," and credited early evacuations for helping keep residents from getting stranded in their homes.
"I'm not going to speculate on whether his position on this storm is in any way shape or form related to his presidential ambitions," Rosenello reportedly said. "We’re focused on assessing damage, getting people back to their homes."
He told NJ Advance Media Monday "Our entire dune system was compromised, and we had a big breach on 3rd Avenue. We had whitecaps and ice flows right through town. It was surreal. "
"A lot of businesses are closed down, and homes damaged. The water just came right in. In Avalon, Stone Harbor, the Wildwoods, Cape May, we're dealing with some significant flood damage."
Monday, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew issued a statement asking Christie to immediately apply to the federal government for a federal disaster relief declaration for Cape May and Cumberland Counties.
"Federal resources will be critical for cleanup and recovery from a storm that affected homes and businesses along our shores, in some instances forcing the evacuation or residents.
Gov, Christie on MSNBC's Morning Joe Monday, accused Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein of "making up" stories about criticism for ignoring heavy damage.
"I know there's some flooding damage in the southern part of your state, clearly a lot of residual damage from the storm. What do you say to those critics who say, 'Why did you go back up to New Hampshire so quickly?'" Stein asked.
Christie replied: “Sam, I don’t even know what critics you’re talking about. There is no residual damage, there is no residual flooding damage. All of the flooding receded yesterday morning. And there was no other damage. People were driving around the streets yesterday morning of New Jersey. So this is just what they wish would have happened."
He continued: "Unfortunately for them we know how to do this. We managed the storm extraordinarily well, New Jersey transit was back at noon yesterday after the storm, our roads were all open as of 7 a.m. yesterday and so, you know, I think that’s just folks who want to criticize me for anything that I do. I have not heard any of that criticism, I haven’t seen any of that criticism and I think you are just making it up."
Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin are scheduled to visit Ortley Beach, Long Beach Island, Long Beach Island and North Wildwood on Monday with the DEP’s Bureau of Coastal Engineering staff to assess beach erosion and shore damage resulting from the weekend blizzard.
Christie returned to New Jersey from campaigning in New Hampshire Friday evening, after initially saying he didn't have plans to do so, but might if storm forecasts intensified. He'd returned to New Hampshire in time for a 12:30 Sunday appearance.