By DAVID PORTER AND GEOFF MULVIHILL, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MOONACHIE, N.J. — In a whirlwind of post-storm decisions that might ruffle some feathers, Gov. Chris Christie announced a string of orders and plans intended to speed New Jersey's recovery from Superstorm Sandy, including telling teachers to work on their days off and utilities to speed up the job of power restoration.
He secured loaned rail cars to use in place of some of the New Jersey Transit cars that were flooded, ordered natural gas shut off in devastated places and announced that military trucks would be used as makeshift polling places in places where regular voting spots are without power.
"We're in the triage and attack phase of the storm, so we can restore power, reopen schools, get public transportation back online and allow people to return to their homes if they've been displaced," he said Thursday in Moonachie.
He told utility companies they have to work harder to turn lights back on in the 1.7 million homes and businesses in the state that remain without power after Superstorm Sandy hit Monday, and told teachers to report to work on days they are entitled to have off.
The Republican governor, known far and wide for his forcefulness, has gotten mostly praise so far for his handling on the storm. President Barack Obama complimented him, Democratic New Jersey politicians have appeared by his side, constituents have hugged him and skeptical storm victims have credit to the state's efforts.
"I'm from Florida, so we're used to it," said Konnie Jones, 47, who was holed in a shelter in Pleasantville after her apartment in Atlantic City was evacuated. "I'll admit they did a good job, a really good, fine job so far."
But some of his new actions will likely ruffle feathers.
The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union and a group that has frequently clashed with the governor, announced Thursday that it was canceling its annual convention scheduled for next week in Atlantic City because of the storm.
The convention means an extra break in the school calendar. Some districts have four-day weekends to accommodate the convention, and others use it to scratch an entire week of classes by holding teacher in-service sessions on some other days that week. The result is a time that some people call "New Jersey Week" for Disney World because so many New Jersey families head to Florida then.
Christie said that because the storm forced unscheduled days off for schools, teachers should agree to return to the classroom on Nov. 8 and 9, the days the convention would have been held. He said he could invoke emergency powers to force them to teach on those days if they didn't do it on their own.
It's not clear what school districts will want to do, but union officials say Christie's idea doesn't work because so many students and parents have plans to be away.
The governor also summoned the leaders of the state's three major electric utilities and said he told them that they need to work faster to turn back on power. The companies had restored service to about 1 million residential and business customers from the 2.7 million that were out of power at the peak Tuesday.
"I made it clear to them that whatever playbooks they had were to be thrown out because we've never faced anything like this before," he said.
He said he was demanding that they tell him exactly how many more workers and how much more equipment they would need.
His administration arranged to bring both from 12 other states – even flying them in on military jets, in some cases. The federal government was setting up temporary housing for the workers on Fort Monmouth.
Before the speedup was announced, the utility with the most outages, JCP&L, was expecting it would take nearly two weeks to restore customers in some of the hardest-hit areas.
The governor also ordered natural gas service shut off from Mantoloking to Island Beach State Park, a stretch of an Ocean County barrier island where several fires have burned, fueled by leaking gas. He said the order will mean that New Jersey Natural Gas will have to pay to rebuild the natural gas system in the region.
Since Monday's storm hit, Christie has scoffed at questions about how Election Day will work on Tuesday, saying he had other priorities to deal with first.
But on Thursday, his administration announced that it was extending the application to apply for mail-in ballots until Friday and was arranging for military trucks to be set up as polls in spots where the regular polls were without power or destroyed.
It's unclear how many of the state's 3,000 polling places will be affected. The change means that some voters will be using paper ballots instead of electronic ones – and that's likely to extend the time it takes to tally results.
Christie also said Thursday that although Atlantic City's 12 casinos all have electricity, they will not be allowed to reopen until drinking water in the city is found to be safe and power can be restored to the rest of the city.
The governor is also trying to bring back more of the mass-transit system that is so important to the state, particularly residents who work in New York City. He said the federal government would loan New Jersey passenger cars.
About one-fourth of NJ Transit's cars were in flooded rail yards and are not ready to roll.
The first NJ Transit train to New York's Penn Station since before the storm was set to roll in Monday morning, but a power failure delayed the return of three other train lines, agency spokesman John Durso Jr. said.
Related on HuffPost:
President Barack Obama
In a hastily organized press briefing at the White House, Obama said Monday that his race with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is the furthest thing from his mind as the East Coast braces for what could be its worst storm in history. "I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I am worried about the impact on families. I am worried about the impact on our first responders," he said. "The election will take care of itself next week." ... He also sent out a campaign email on Monday urging supporters to heed advice from local authorities and extending an early thank you to first responders. “Michelle and I are keeping everyone in the affected areas in our thoughts and prayers. Be safe,” reads the email, signed by Obama. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/hurricane-sandy-obama_n_2042403.html?1351610452">HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery and Lynne Peeples </a></em>
Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney took a moment in an overflow room ahead of a campaign rally Monday to express his concern for those in the path of Hurricane Sandy and encourage the people of Ohio to do what they could to help those out east. “I want to mention that our hearts and prayers are with all the people in the storm's path," he said in Avon Lake, Ohio. "Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury." He went on to encourage those who can afford it to make a donation to the Red Cross. "If there are other ways that you can help, please take advantage of them because there will be a lot of people that are going to be looking for help and the people in Ohio have big hearts, so we're expecting you to follow through and help out," he said. Romney concluded the rally by echoing his comments from the overflow room. "This looks like another time we all need to come together," he said. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/mitt-romney-hurricane-sandy_n_2039620.html?1351610466">HuffPost's Elise Foley</a></em>
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) continued his praise of President Barack Obama's work responding to Hurricane Sandy, using a press briefing Monday evening to note that he appreciated the "leadership" Obama was showing in the emergency. Christie, a prominent surrogate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said that he and Obama had a private phone conversation on Monday to discuss how the federal government could help New Jersey. He said that Obama told Christie that he could call him directly over the next 48 hours if the state government had issues with federal response to the hurricane in New Jersey. “I appreciate that type of leadership," Christie said of Obama. The Republican governor said most of the call centered on Obama's concern for New Jersey and then he continued to heap praise on the president, saying Obama's work has been "proactive." Christie shortened a campaign trip for Romney to return to New Jersey to handle the storm response. Christie started his praise of Obama during press briefings on Sunday, when he said "appreciated" Obama's outreach to him and the governors of other states being impacted by Hurricane Sandy. During a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Christie described another call he had with Obama and said that the president and his aides have been working to benefit New Jersey. “We appreciate the president’s efforts in that regard," Christie said earlier Monday. "He and his staff worked tremendously hard.” -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/chris-christie-sandy-obama_n_2041673.html">HuffPost's John Celock</a></em>
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Newark Mayor Cory Booker
Former Vice President Al Gore
This week, our nation has anxiously watched as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast and caused widespread damage--affecting millions. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help. Please consider donating or volunteering for your local aid organizations. The images of Sandy’s flooding brought back memories of a similar--albeit smaller scale-- event in Nashville just two years ago. There, unprecedented rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc and submerging sections of my hometown. For me, the Nashville flood was a milestone. For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a similar event: a time when the climate crisis—which is often sequestered to the far reaches of our everyday awareness became a reality. While the storm that drenched Nashville was not a tropical cyclone like Hurricane Sandy, both storms were strengthened by the climate crisis. Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. Hurricane Sandy, and the Nashville flood, were reminders of just that. Other climate-related catastrophes around the world have carried the same message to hundreds of millions. Sandy was also affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy's storm surge was worsened by a century of sea level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse. Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
"Our thoughts and prayers rest with the families, friends, and loved ones of all those who have lost their lives in the course of Hurricane Sandy, and our hearts go out to the millions of Americans waking up to destruction and devastation in their homes and communities today. "We are all grateful to the rescue workers and first responders working around-the-clock to save lives, restore power, and deal with the immediate aftermath of the storm. Federal, state, and local authorities have worked hand-in-hand to prepare for and respond to this natural disaster, and we will continue to do so as Americans begin to take stock of the damage, recover, and rebuild. "All Members of Congress stand ready to offer our aid and assistance to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. As we have done in the past, the American people will stand united to confront the impact of this storm and start the work of recovery."
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio)
Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)
“Hurricane Sandy hit New York and the Northeast hard last night and will complicate life in our region for the coming days. I am astounded at what I have seen in my own congressional district: flooding throughout Coney Island, Battery Park City, and other areas; widespread power outages; felled trees everywhere you look; and some very tragic fatalities. I am grateful to our local responders and laborers, who are doing a tremendous job on emergency response. And, through the President’s declaration of New York as a major disaster area, we will be able to immediately allocate FEMA funds to begin to repair the billions of dollars in damage locally and bring relief to New Yorkers whose lives have been turned upside down.”