Governors from North Carolina, where heavy rain was expected Sunday, to Connecticut declared states of emergency. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities by 8 p.m. Sunday.
Christie, who was widely criticized for not interrupting a family vacation in Florida while a snowstorm pummeled the state in 2010, broke off campaigning for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in North Carolina on Friday to return home.
"I can be as cynical as anyone," Christie said in a bit of understatement Saturday. "But when the storm comes, if it's as bad as they're predicting, you're going to wish you weren't as cynical as you otherwise might have been."
The storm forced the presidential campaign to juggle schedules. Romney scrapped plans to campaign Sunday in the swing state of Virginia and switched his schedule for the day to Ohio. First lady Michelle Obama canceled an appearance in New Hampshire for Tuesday, and Obama moved a planned Monday departure for Florida to Sunday night to beat the storm. He canceled appearances in Northern Virginia on Monday and Colorado on Tuesday.
In Ship Bottom, just north of Atlantic City, Alice and Giovanni Stockton-Rossini spent Saturday packing clothing in the backyard of their home, a few hundred yards from the ocean on Long Beach Island. Their neighborhood was under a voluntary evacuation order, but they didn't need to be forced.
"It's really frightening," Alice Stockton-Rossi said. "But you know how many times they tell you, 'This is it, it's really coming and it's really the big one' and then it turns out not to be? I'm afraid people will tune it out because of all the false alarms before ... (but) this one might be the one."
A few blocks away, Russ Linke was taking no chances. He and his wife secured the patio furniture, packed the bicycles into the pickup truck, and headed off the island.