TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie closed all state offices in New Jersey around 8:30 a.m. Thursday due to the snow, and declared a state of emergency in Cape May, Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth counties.

But a state of emergency does not prevent anyone from driving or force the closing of businesses or schools.

The declaration will speed up assistance from state agencies to where it is needed and  “authorizes the NJ director of Emergency Management to makes resources available for rescue, evacuation, shelter and essential commodities activate and coordinate the preparation, response and recovery efforts for the storm with all county and municipal emergency operations and governmental agencies," according to the state Office of Emergency Management.

The storm is expected to bring not only large quantities of snow, but also powerful winds, and the potential for coastal flooding and hazardous travel conditions, as well as freezing temperatures.

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The Jersey Shore will be the hardest hit. Inland and points north will see less snow, but still enough to cause dangerous conditions.

A state of emergency is a serious matter but doesn't — in and of itself — mean drivers have to stay off the roads. According to the state Office of Emergency Management schools are not automatically closed — though many are of their own volition. Travel may be restricted to certain areas but a complete travel ban is rarely implemented .

Businesses are not required to close and do not have to pay employees if they close.

"Businesses must address hours of operation and compensation on an individual basis," according to the OEM.

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