Bruised but not beaten, New Jersey and New York are bracing for Round 2 with Mother Nature.
In any other year, the nor’easter forecast to hit the Atlantic coast Wednesday and Thursday would be considered routine, National Weather Service officials said.
But for a region still wobbled from Hurricane Sandy’s impact last week, even a moderate storm can bring serious consequences.
“No doubt, if Sandy had not made landfall, if Sandy had not happened, this would be a nor’easter but it would be a non-event compared to what we’re left with now,” said Bruce Terry, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service. “It’s a totally different situation because of Sandy. It will not be good either.”
New Jersey has ordered the evacuation of about 500 residents from Brick Township in Ocean County, N.J., and the Army Corps of Engineers is scrambling to rebuild sand dunes along the state’s coastline washed away by the hurricane.
Fortunately, many of the measures the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management would set up for a nor’easter are already in place because of Sandy, said department spokeswoman Mary Goepfert.
Forecasters predict the storm will send high winds and snow to western New Jersey and into Pennsylvania, and a 3- to 4-foot storm surge on New Jersey and New York coastline along with 2 to 3 inches of rain. Winds are expected to be between 30 and 40 mph, with gusts up to 55 mph along the coast, Terry said.
The thousands who remain without power in New York, already suffering from near-freezing temperatures, may get snow too. The American Red Cross is sending 80,000 additional blankets and extra food and supplies to areas in the path of the storm.
On Tuesday, about 14% of New Jersey, or about 537,000 customers, remained without power, and 4% of households in New York, or about 349,000 customers, had no power. It all combines to exacerbate the misery for those yet to have their power restored, and hinder efforts by utility companies to rebuild their infrastructure.
“We’d love to have blue sky days for restoration, but the nature of Mother Nature is not cooperating, so we’ll have to deal with this over the next couple of days,” said John Miksad, Con Edison’s senior vice president of electric operations. The company powers all of Manhattan and Staten Island.
About 107,000 Con Ed customers still don’t have power and 20,000 won’t have it through the weekend because of damage to electrical equipment, Miksad said.
“If it’s driving rain and winds, with the kind of gusts we’re talking about, that will certainly tend to slow down the troops,” Miksad said.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Tuesday that police will tour the city’s most vulnerable areas and make announcements over loudspeakers. The mayor urged the elderly or with infants to go to shelters or anywhere they can stay warm. Temperatures could drop into the 20s, he said.
The city’s parks, playgrounds and beaches will be closed as of noon Wednesday, and property owners and construction crews are being ordered to secure their sites ahead of the nor’easter.
The city has more than 200 shelters open, giving residents no excuse to have to withstand the elements in the freezing dark of a home without power, Bloomberg said.
Most states are on watch-and-see mode, given that the storm is expected to stay over water with only its periphery brushing along New Jersey and New York. Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine are all keeping an eye on the storm, but remain focused on helping New York and New Jersey.
“With regards to this storm, it’s kind of the bad weather we’re used to,” said Robert McAleer, director of Maine’s emergency management agency. “So we have no special preparations at this point … it depends on how it hits us and how hard.”
National Grid U.S., serving R.I., Mass., N.Y. and N.H. among other states, said the other major issue besides restoring power is restoring gas. Crews have to go house to house inspecting gas lines to see if they’re damaged before they can re-ignite pilots and restore gas service. If the damage is to the homeowner’s equipment, the homeowner will have to foot the bill for replacement.
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