’s Pine Belt Arena will open 8 a.m. Friday as a shelter for evacuees of Hurricane Irene.
Formerly known as the Poland Spring Arena at the Ritacco Center, the arena will be set up as a Red Cross emergency shelter.
Toms River also has an emergency hotline for the storm: 732-818-9901.
Residents can call the number for the latest information from the township Office of Emergency Management.
Voluntary Evacuation of Ortley Beach, barrier island
This evening, of the barrier island sections of Toms River and other shorelines was strongly urged.
Toms River OEM Coordinator Paul Daley said residents should plan now to leave the area before the storm hits.
“Whatever you can do, do it now,” Daley said. “Heed the warnings. Do not wait.”
Each resident should have a hurricane preparedness plan, he said, and tips can be found on www.ready.gov.
“The next 24 to 36 hours are going to be critical,” Daley said.
At this point, the voluntary evacuation focuses on the barrier island communities of Ortley Beach, Dover Beaches, Pelican Island and the neighboring towns of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights. Voluntary evacuation signs flash in the free parking lot of Seaside Heights and at the entrance to Ortley Beach, urging people to evacuate and stay informed and prepare for the storm during the governors statewide state of emergency.
Long Beach Island will have a mandatory evacuation beginning 8 a.m. tomorrow, with Route 72 eastbound Causeway bridge closed.
The Route 37 bridge to Seaside could convert into a westbound traffic flow to accommodate a mass exodus from the barrier island, Daley said. But he said a large percentage of the barrier island population has already left for inland accommodations.
Anyone requiring shelter can make their way to the Pine Belt Arena at High School North, on Bey Lea Road (Route 571) and Old Freehold Road after 8 a.m. Friday.
Daley said that tomorrow morning, the OEM team will meet to see if the voluntary evacuation is upgraded to a mandatory evacuation of Toms River shorelines.
The progression from there should the storm prove even more severe would be a voluntary evacuation of the mainland Toms River, specifically flood prone areas of East Dover along Fischer Boulevard and the Bayshore, or of the Silverton and Green Island sections along the Silver Bay, Daley said.
Gov. Chris Christie has suspended tolls on the Garden State Parkway south of the Raritan River as of 8 a.m. Friday to accommodate evacuations.
Seek shelter inland
The main evacuation corridor for the barrier island is the Tunney Bridge from Seaside over Route 37. Daley also said the Mantoloking Bridge is another means of exodus off the island.
In addition, Route 70 is a coastal evacuation route.
Daley urged that however you get there, chose the option furthest inland when deciding where to take shelter.
He said eastern residents should first reach out to inland friends and family, or even hotel accommodations. The High School North shelter will be there regardless, but “the arena isn’t exactly as comfy as staying elsewhere,” he said.
The High School North shelter will accommodate pet owners to bring their pets, Daley said.
Spreading the message
The dozens of homeowners associations of the barrier island neighborhoods and condominiums were all notified by Toms River police as a way to distribute information to neighborhoods, Daley said.
“We’ve been in touch homeowners associations,” he said. “They know to leave, they’ve been through things like this before.”
He said the barrier island is well versed in the storm preparedness, but that often holdouts wait until the storm closes in to seek help.
“Particularly with the senior communities, we may have additional steps to help those who have mobility issues,” Daley said. “We have a list of people we check in on to make sure they have the assistance they need. We’ve already begun making those calls to plan for their safety.”
The township's Reverse 911 system is activated to alert residents, and Daley said radio station WOBM 92.7 will serve as an emergency broadcast station.