By Ray Sanchez, CNN
CNN – Along the Northeast, officials are trying to assure the public that Hurricane Joaquin won’t be another Superstorm Sandy.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 storm that could get stronger.
Joaquin’s forecast track shows it could be near North Carolina by Monday and possibly New Jersey a day later — a path that could bring it hauntingly close to where Superstorm Sandy made landfall in 2012.
The storm intensified to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph Thursday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
But should Joaquin make it back to the areas hammered by Sandy, it’s not expected to pack the same punch.
When Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012, it had hurricane-force winds. Joaquin is projected to be a tropical storm once it gets that far north.
Still, Christie said the executive order was intended to give emergency management officials the tools “to ensure a speedy and orderly response” to moderate to major flooding expected in some parts of New Jersey over the weekend.
“There is no question, listen, I’m much better prepared,” Christie said. “For the folks who are up here, who lived through Sandy, they are all much better prepared.”
Christie said state environmental officials were working with towns with vulnerable beaches to ensure they have adequate supplies of sand to deal with erosion. And water supply and wastewater facilities were contacted to make sure generators and emergency plans were in place.
“You need to understand that we’re prepared and we need you to prepare and not panic,” he said.
New York governor: We’re better prepared
It was just three years ago this month that Sandy slammed the northeastern United States, devastating parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
“The bottom line is, although you can’t be prepared for everything, there is no doubt that we are in a much, much better position than we have ever been before,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Thursday.
Cuomo said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other agencies were taking steps to prepare for the storm, including moving generators and pumping equipment and making preparations to deploy 3,000 National Guard members if needed.
“Sandy was a historic storm, and we did learn from that and we did prepare for that,” he said. “But again, I’ve learned the hard way never to say that we are prepared for whatever comes our way, because you cannot be prepared for whatever comes your way.”
The projected path of the current storm system already has changed multiple times and could change again.
By 11 a.m. ET, Joaquin’s eye was passing over the Bahamas’ uninhabited Samana Cays with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. Forecasters say the storm will be near the northwestern Bahamas, including the country’s most populous city, Nassau, by Friday.
By that time, Joaquin could have 140 mph winds capable of causing catastrophic damage, the National Hurricane Center said.
Parts of the eastern U.S. from Florida to New Jersey were under flood watches and warnings Thursday morning, with more than 10 inches of rain already having fallen in some areas this week.
“I understand that this is a state that’s been traumatized by the second-worst disaster in American history … not quite three years ago, and I understand that there will be people who, when they start to hear this news, will feel an enormous amount of stress over the possibility that something severe could happen to the state again,” Christie said.
“There’s nothing we can do to control it, and worrying and stressing about it will not change the path of the storm,” he added. “Secondly, you need to know that the state is prepared to deal with whatever we need to deal with.”
Destructive, deadly storm
From late October to early November 2012, Sandy — as a hurricane and a post-tropical cyclone — killed at least 117 people in the United States and 69 more in Canada and the Caribbean.
In the United States, the storm killed 53 people in New York state, 34 in New Jersey, 12 in Pennsylvania, six in West Virginia, four in Connecticut, one in Maryland and seven elsewhere.
New York estimated that Sandy cost the state $41.9 billion; New Jersey reported Sandy-related losses to be about $36.8 billion.
In New York City, the total public and private losses were about $19 billion.
CNN’s Carly Roman and Haimy Assefa contributed to this report.