Residents and visitors of the Barnegat Bay barrier island must leave, as part of a of the area for Hurricane Irene.
The barrier island communities and flood-prone areas of Toms River’s shoreline are under a mandatory evacuation beginning at 4 p.m. today, said Toms River Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Daley.
The Route 37 Mathis bridge to Seaside will close noon Saturday to eastbound traffic.
Toms River's barrier island neighborhoods, as well as Lavallette and South Seaside Park, have ordered a mandatory evacuation. Seaside Heights is still operating as voluntary evacuation.
Toms River High School North is open as a shelter for evacuees, at Old Freehold Road and Bey Lea Road (Route 571).
The facility can hold 1,200 people and is also pet-friendly, said Daley.
However, he urged residents to find shelter with out-of-town friends or family, or hotels.
At a regional meeting of Toms River OEM and other local authorities today, officials discussed the potential for record flooding throughout Ocean County.
Previously, the barrier island was under a strongly urged voluntary evacuation, with all of Toms River’s evacuation voluntary.
Today, the evacuation is upgraded to a mandatory one for those communities.
Hurricane Irene is expected to bring excess of 50 mph winds and heavy rains Sunday.
Toms River’s barrier island communities east of the Mathis Bridge to Seaside are part of the mandatory evacuation: Ortley Beach, Ocean Beach, Dover Beaches, Pelican Island and neighboring towns of South Seaside Park, Lavallette, Normandy Beach.
Should Toms River North fill to capacity, the Red Cross will likely establish a second shelter at Toms River Intermediate North, near the high school on Bey Lea Road (Route 571) and Intermediate North Way, Daley said.