Be prepared for "a significant storm."
That's what Woodbridge officials are saying about Hurricane Irene, which is bearing down on the township with an early Sunday morning due date.
By all radar and satellite views, NJ is right in the middle of the storm track, and Woodbridge is right in the middle of that.
This is one bullet central NJ residents aren't going to dodge.
"You can't predict it. We don't know who, if anyone, we will have to evacuate until we are well into the storm," said John Hagerty, town spokesman.
Mayor John McCormac said in a statement he expects the National Weather Service to issue a hurricane watch for the township for Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 27 and 28.
According to the American Red Cross, a hurricane watch means hurricane conditions could be a threat within 48 hours. An upgrade to a hurricane warning will mean hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.
'Evacuation' is the word that's used gingerly, but the scenario itself is being taken very seriously - at least for areas of the township that historically flood during normal rainy weather.
In Woodbridge Proper, that area includes Crampton Ave., Watson Ave., Heidelberg Ave., Vesper Ave., Pearl Ave. and Von Vetchen Ave.
Flood-prone areas in Avenel include East Coddington St., St. Mary Way, Jay St., Freddie Alison Dr., Joey Lane, Jessie Lane, Christina Dr., Helen Ave., and Coke Ave. This includes the Ideal Mobile Home Park off Rahway Ave.
Those who live or own businesses in those areas are urged to move their vehicles to higher ground, Hagerty said.
The main method Woodbridge replies on in emergency situations is the Reverse 911 system. That is where police and other emergency officials call residents to let them know of a situation that requires their immediate attention.
It's especially effective in targeted areas, such as the flood-prone sections of the township.
In the unlikely event of a widespread evacuation - particularly if there are power outages where phone service might be affected - police, fire, and public works officials will go neighborhood to neighborhood and broadcast necessary information via loudspeaker.
"We'll go door to door if necessary," Hagerty said.
The township already has a database of citizens in need of special assistance. Thsi includes the disabled, seniors who have difficulty moving about, and people with special medical conditions, such as those who need medical apparatus that requires power.
Pets are also part of the evacuation plan. They are invited with their food, bowls, and blankets.
"We know which citizens require assistance in time of evacuation," Hagerty said.
Residents in flood-prone areas may only need to be moved to other areas of the township. In that case, Woodbridge has 7 designated emergency centers. They include the Evergreen Center in Colonia and all of the township's middle schools: Woodbridge, Fords, Iselin, Avenel, and Colonia (see map for emergency center locations.)
The primary location of emergency operations, though, is the on upper Main St.
"We have the Arenas, where there is a lot of floor space. The gym has a lot of space. It's a good place to move people to," Hagerty said.
As with the other emergency centers, the Community Center is already prestocked with food, water, blankets, and cots for evacuees if it becomes necessary.
"It's part of our emergency plan," Hagerty explained. "Supplies are stockpiled."
A Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) trailer will be moved into the Woodbridge Community Center Friday to serve as a command post, Hagerty said.
The township's Public Works Dept. has been at work clearing streams of debris and keeping storm sewers clear, Hagerty said. "We want to keep the water moving unimpeded, which will reduce the potential of flooding," he said.