Hurricane Sandy was packing sustained winds of 85 m.p.h. early Monday morning as it drew closer to what forecasters predicted would be a direct hit on the New Jersey coast.
A forecast released at 5 a.m. Monday indicated the storm had gained strength as it tracked closer to the New Jersey shore coastline.
A hurricane force wind warning as well as a marine warning predicting wave heights between 18 and 24 feet were in effect for the entire New Jersey coast, issued by the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly.
By 2 a.m. Monday, sustained winds had reached tropical storm force in Tuckerton, Ocean County.
The NWS office said in a statement issued early Monday morning that the strongest winds and highest seas from Sandy would come Monday afternoon and Monday night. Wind gusts in upwards of 80 m.p.h were forecast.
In addition to its forecast statement, the Mount Holly office took the unusual step of calling on those who have not evacuated barrier islands in New Jersey to do so.
"If you are reluctant, think about your loved ones," the statement said. "Think about the emergency responders who will be unable to reach you when you make the panicked phone call to be rescued. Think about the rescue/recovery teams who will rescue you if you are injured or recover your remains if you do not survive."
The chilling message was similar to one the NWS office in New Orleans issued before Hurricane Katrina struck that area in 2005.
Ocean County residents packed shelters by Sunday night, with one such shelter in Toms River having to add extra beds after running out of space.
Some of the few residents of Long Beach Island who stayed behind, defying a mandatory evacuation order, posted occasional photos to Facebook, one showing flood waters that had already spread over Long Beach Boulevard, the main thoroughfare on the skinny, 18-mile-long barrier island.
It was a long, first night of the storm for emergency workers in Ocean County.
Brick Township police blocked access to the Barnegat Peninsula at the Mantoloking Bridge, and were set to enforce a local state of emergency that banned driving on all roadways in town.
Harvey Cedars police occasionally posted storm updates on Facebook, and Beach Haven firefighters moved their surplus military M-35 cargo truck out of a garage to higher ground, as flood waters threatened to invade the fire station.
As the gigantic storm began to set its sights on the Jersey Shore, the hurricane center grew even more confident in its forecast track.
"There is little change to the forecast track or the track guidance since the last advisory," a forecast statement said.
The Mount Holly office statement was more to the point.
"If you think the storm is over-hyped and exagerrated, please err on the side of caution. We wish everyone in harm's way all the best."