Thousands of area residents who were still trying to dig their homes and cars out from last week’s devastating flooding were again relegated to the cold darkness as power lines crumpled beneath the latest precipitation and knocked power out to 50,000 residents.
“I know everyone’s patience is wearing thin,” said John Miksad, senior vice president of electric operations at Consolidated Edison, the chief utility in New York City.
As the nor’easter closed in, thousands of people in low-lying neighborhoods staggered by the superstorm just over a week ago were urged to clear out. Authorities warned that rain and 60 mph gusts in the evening and overnight could topple trees wrenched loose by Sandy and erase some of the hard-won progress made in restoring power to millions of customers.
“I am waiting for the locusts and pestilence next,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said. “We may take a setback in the next 24 hours.”
Prior to the storm, public works crews in New Jersey built up dunes to protect the stripped and battered coast, and new evacuations were ordered in a number of communities already emptied by Sandy. New shelters opened.
In New York City, police went to low-lying neighborhoods with loudspeakers, urging residents to leave.
“We’re petrified,” said James Alexander, a resident of the hard-hit Rockaways section of Queens. “It’s like a sequel to a horror movie.”
All construction in New York City was halted – a precaution that needed no explanation after a crane collapsed last week in Sandy’s high winds and dangled menacingly over the streets of Manhattan. Parks were closed because of the danger of falling trees. A section of the Long Island Expressway was closed in both directions because of icy conditions.
Airlines canceled at least 1,300 U.S. flights in and out of the New York metropolitan area, causing a new round of disruptions that rippled across the country.
“While this storm is not as dangerous as Sandy was, New Yorkers should still take safety precautions today and tonight,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Wednesday.
By 10 p.m., some four inches of snow had fallen on Staten Island, the borough of New York that was hardest hit by Sandy. Parts of Connecticut saw more than eight inches.
“It’s Mother Nature’s one-two punch,” Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, told CNN’s “Piers Morgan.” “It’s testing the resolve and the grit of my state and my city and, obviously, this region.”
Forecasters said the nor’easter would bring moderate coastal flooding, with storm surges of about 3 feet possible Wednesday into Thursday – far less than the 8 to 14 feet Sandy hurled at the region.
Con Ed said that by early evening, the nor’easter knocked out power to at least 11,000 customers, some of whom had just gotten it back. Tens of thousands more were expected to lose power overnight. The Long Island Power Authority said by evening that the number of customers in the dark had risen from 150,000 to more than 198,000.
Similarly, New Jersey utilities reported scattered outages, with some customers complaining that they had just gotten their electricity back in the past two day or two, only to lose it again.
On Staten Island, workers and residents on a washed-out block in Midland Beach continued to pull debris from their homes, even as the latest bad weather blew in.
Jane Murphy, a nurse, wondered, “How much worse can it get?” as she cleaned the inside of her flooded-out car.
Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, with most of the victims in New York and New Jersey.
At the peak of the outages from Sandy, more than 8.5 million customers lost power. Before the nor’easter hit, that number was down to 675,000, nearly all of them in New Jersey and New York.