EWING, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie asked all visitors to New Jersey’s shore to get out by midday Friday with Hurricane Irene poised to be a “serious, significant event,” with flooding a threat across the entire state when the storm arrives this weekend.

“Do not try to ride it out. It is not the smart thing to do,” Christie told a news conference today at the State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center.

He also told people who had been planning to visit the shore this weekend to stay home: “Do not go,” he said.

While declaring a state of emergency, the governor did not make evacuations mandatory but said he would consider them if people didn’t heed the state’s warnings.

He said it was especially important visitors leave the state’s barrier islands. He and his family were leading by example, leaving the governor’s summer residence on Island Beach State Park today.

Irene, moving through the Bahamas today and heading toward the North Carolina coast, could deliver rain and winds to the populous Northeast over the weekend, and bear down on New Jersey on Sunday. Rain brought today by a weather system unrelated to Irene made the flood prospects even worse.

Forecasters say Irene is not likely to come ashore in New Jersey as a hurricane, but most storm projections show it passing close enough to the already rain-soaked state to cause flooding — maybe along many waterways — and tree-toppling winds that could take down power lines.