WHAT IS A STATE OF EMERGENCY?
In advance of severe weather, counties and even some municipalities will often declare their own local state of emergency, which temporarily grants local emergency management officials similar additional authority in order to respond to the event. Those decisions are made by mayors and county executives.
NO IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON RESIDENTS
A state of emergency itself "does not normally restrict citizen movements or activities," according to the state OEM. Even if officials are urging residents to stay indoors, you are usually free to move as you please.
However, the governor can enact additional travel bans if road conditions are expected to become dangerous, as Christie did last winter during a snow storm that was forecasted to slam the state, but did far less damage.
The governor may also declare certain government offices closed, but cannot compel individual private businesses to shut down operations. Local, county and state authorities can close roads or cut off access to shopping centers or business plazas if conditions become dangerous, however.
There is no time limit on a state of emergency declaration, though the governor will lift usually it once an adverse event no longer presents a direct threat.
A state of emergency does open up state funds to be used for immediate response and recovery, but when a major event does strike, typically other means are used for long-term recovery.
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, for example, much of the recovery money available to residents was put into play by a federal disaster declaration, which opens the door to funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other sources.