"Get the hell off the beach," it wasn't.

Gov. Chris Christie — in a suit, not a fleece — urged diligence in the face of Hurricane Joaquin Thursday morning, announcing he'd declared a state of emergency and warning that no matter what happens, the southern part of the state is likely to be walloped with heavy rain and wind.

But he struck a cautiously optimistic tone for parts further north — "We hope normalcy for the rest of the state in the next couple of days" — while stressing that it's simply too early to tell weather Joaquin's going to deliver a direct hit to New Jersey.

Gov. Chris Christie struck a cautious, but not dire tone as he urged New Jersey to be ready for Hurricane Joaquin. (Dino Flammi)
Gov. Chris Christie struck a cautious, but not dire tone as he urged New Jersey to be ready for Hurricane Joaquin. (Dino Flammi)

"We are not quite yet sure about whether this is going to be a single punch or a double punch," he said.

That uncertainty echoes that of meteorologists including New Jersey 101.5's Dan Zarrow, who have been watching models change quickly over the last day. While more are showing the storm turning east and out to sea than did even just a few hours ago, there's still a very real possibility Joaquin could make landfall along the east coast.

And it's a near certainly indirect effects are going to mean heavy rains and winds for much of the state. Expect very rough surf and coastal flooding.

Ahead of superstorm Sandy, the warnings to evacuate were dire. This time, so far:

"I will consider evacuations if necessary."

There are good signs, he said. New Jersey's rivers aren't currently expected to overflow — the major source of hazards and damage after Hurricane Irene. And unusually low reservoir supplies, normally a source for concern, could help the state during the storm.

But Christie was sure to warn residents in Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem and Cape May counties that hazardous weather could begin Thursday.

"Now is the time for you to hunker down and begin preparing for the storm," he said.

The state of emergency mobilizes several resources throughout New Jersey. Among them, Christie said.

• The state Office of Emerency Management has activated its emergency operations center.
• The Department of Transportation is inspecting and cleaning drainage systems, topping off fuel supplies and putting emergency contractors on alert. More than 700 people in 65 crews have more than 500 pieces of equipment being positioned in areas anticipated to be most affected.
• The Department of Environmental Protection is in contact with shore towns about moving sand or supplying more.
• Water facilities have been contacted to make sure they have backup power available.
• The Board of Public Utilities is in contact with power companies about their plans, which include mutual aid requests to other states.

Christie said he's upped New Jersey's store of emergency commodities to a 20-day  supply from a 5-day supply, and they're being made available to armories in the southern part of the state Thursday.

Shelters are being established through Rowan and Rutgers Universities, as well as through several counties.

And Christie promised he'll be in New Jersey until at least Tuesday — presidential campaign events have been canceled to keep him home in New Jersey.

The governor urged safety and smart preparation — consulting with ready.nj.gov on supplies, sheltering and the safe operation of generators. He notes several people died of carbon monoxide after Sandy, operating generators improperly.

And asked about delayed efforts to build dunes along beaches, he took a swipe at opponents of such projects. The governor acknowledged some of that delay is due to funding issues and bureaucracy — but some, he said, is over eminement domain legal battles.

"I wonder if the folks in Bay Head and Point Pleasant think it was a smart move to be fighting the dunes," he said.

Louis C. Hochman is digital managing editor for NJ1015.com. Reach him at louis.hochman@townsquaremedia.com or on Twitter @LouisCHochman.