TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday declared a state of emergency for three southern coastal counties ahead of Hermine reaching the Jersey Shore this weekend.

The tropical storm is expected to bring powerful winds, heavy and sustained rain and moderate-to-major coastal flooding and beach erosion.

The coasts of Cape May, Atlantic and Ocean counties are expected to be hardest hit. Power outages as a result of the strong winds could occur throughout the state.

There are no travel bans or mandatory evacuations, but Atlantic County officials were encouraging people in flood-prone areas to voluntarily clear out and, “at a minimum,” move vehicles to higher ground.

Barnegat Township police also were recommending residents of lagoon and bayfront homes on properties that flooded during Sandy and Jonas to evacuate before Sunday.

"It is recommended that residents in these areas move vehicles to higher ground and secure all loose outdoor items," the department said.

In Ocean Gate, an Ocean County borough along the Toms River and Barnegat Bay that was devastated during Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Paul Kennedy issued an executive order Saturday afternoon requiring all boats and floatation devices be removed from the water.

New Jersey 101.5 Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said the coastal flooding in South Jersey could be as bad as the flooding after the January blizzard. The worst surge and coastal flooding are expected Sunday evening, Zarrow said.

Christie's declaration sets the state's emergency-response plan into action, broadens the powers of State Police to include traffic control and allows the National Guard to step in with rescue and cleanup assistance if necessary.

Christie said the potential storm conditions “constitute an imminent hazard, which threatens and presently endangers the health, safety, and resources of the residents.”

“This situation may become too large in scope to be handled by the normal county and municipal operating services in Ocean County, Atlantic County and Cape May County, and this situation may spread to other parts of the state,” he said.

Island Beach State Park will close 8 p.m. Saturday and remained closed through Labor Day while Allaire State Park will close 4 p.m. Sunday and remain closed through Tuesday.

While officials have not yet opened any shelters, they have five locations ready if needed:

Cape May County
· Woodbine Developmental Center 1175 Dehirsch Avenue. Woodbine NJ
· Upper Township Middle School 525 Perry Rd, Woodbine, NJ 08270
Atlantic County
· Atlantic City Convention Center 1 Convention Blvd, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Ocean County
· Southern Regional High School, 90 Cedar Bridge Rd. in Stafford Twp.
· Pinelands Regional High School, 590 Nugentown Rd. in Little Egg Harbor Twp.

The state Office of Emergency Management was monitoring the storm and is prepared to respond.

The state Department of Transportation checked and cleared inlets over the past few days and confirmed that tree-cutting equipment, generators and light towers will be ready if needed.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email