The boardwalk at Atlantic City is deserted as the first rains from Hurricane Irene hit the New Jersey Shore
The boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey, is deserted as the first rains from Hurricane Irene hit the New Jersey Shore August 27, 2011. Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the Jersey Shore early Sunday. The building at right is pictured with the original state of its facade. Reuters

As Hurricane Irene inexorably moves up the eastern coast of the U.S., thousands of New Jersey residents have fled the shore, following evacuation orders by Governor Chris Christie.

On Saturday morning, hundreds of people from the coast arrived in Trenton in about two dozen filled buses, according to a report in the Associated Press. They were met there by local police and National Guardsmen.

State officials may also open up shelters in Newark for more evacuees.

The state is providing all transportation services, since New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and PATH will be shut down by Saturday afternoon. Air flights at Newark International Airport have also been cancelled.

New Jersey’s Cape May County, Long Beach Island and the shore communities in Atlantic and Ocean counties fell under a mandatory evacuation directive.

The evacuation has reportedly proceeded orderly, despite clogged traffic on inbound highways from the coast.

Residents who remain on shore will likely face fierce winds and torrential showers by Sunday afternoon.

The storm is expected to pass by the Jersey coast as a Category-1 with winds of up to 75 or 80 mph. Flash flooding is also expected, burdening a state that has already been drenched by heavy rains in August.

According to reports, Irene could create storm surges that increase raise water levels by 3 to 6 feet all along the coast, as well as the Raritan and Delaware bays.

Meanwhile, emergency shelters are offering free food, juice and coffee, but no television or internet service.

Yavor Tenev, a native of Bulgaria, who works a summer job in Ocean City, told reporters: There are a lot of people in there [evacuation shelter].”

Another evacuee complained: It's freezing in there. There is nowhere to sleep, only places for the elderly and sick.

In another unprecedented step, casinos in Atlantic City will close voluntary down Saturday afternoon – only the third time in 33 years.