New Jersey towns ordered evacuations and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he is considering them as a new storm threatens gales, rain and flooding.
Brick Township Mayor Stephen Acropolis ordered evacuation for waterfront areas by 6 p.m. Those farther inland whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy were “strongly encouraged” to leave, according to a notice on the town website. Residents near Middletown Township were ordered to leave by 3 p.m. tomorrow because of a possible power loss, according to the municipal website.
The weather led United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL:US), the world’s biggest air carrier, to suspend most flights to and from the New York area for 24 hours starting at midday tomorrow.
The nor’easter may barrel up the coast, bringing peak winds of 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour and a surge as high as 4 feet to the shores of New Jersey, New York City and Long Island, said Lauren Nash, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York. Delaware and Connecticut may also see flooding. There’s a small chance other New Jersey shore residents may need to leave, Governor Chris Christie said.
“We don’t expect huge storm surges, at least nowhere near what we got with Hurricane Sandy,” Christie, a 50-year-old Republican, said today in Westwood. “What I’m worried about inland is the loss of power. We might lose ground on that.”
In New York City, 625 adults, plus staff, were ordered evacuated tonight from three nursing homes and a health-care center, according to a statement from the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The facilities, in the hard-hit Rockaways area of Queens, were running on generator power that may be compromised should the nor’easter lead to a storm surge, according to the statement.
Sandy knocked out electricity to 8.5 million homes and businesses across 21 states after hitting the coast Oct. 29. About 916,000 remain in the dark in New York and New Jersey, where temperatures are near freezing, according to estimates from Christie and Cuomo.
The Holland Tunnel between Jersey City and lower Manhattan will be open for tomorrow morning’s commute, according to a statement from the governors’ offices.
Preparing for Worst
Christie said the evacuations in Brick were ordered locally and he has no current plans to expand the zone of people who are removed from low-lying areas. That decision may change in the coming day as the storm’s path and severity become more clear, he said.
In New York state, Cuomo ordered utility companies not to release workers who have come from across the U.S. and Canada to help repair downed lines in case the approaching nor’easter causes further damage, he said. About 350,000 New Yorkers remain without power as the new storm threatens to knock down more wires, flood coastal areas and further disrupt the gasoline supply, Cuomo said.
“We’re on storm watch,” Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, said today at a press conference in Manhattan. “We’ve had little good news, but we live by the adage of prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
There was one glimmer of hope: Forecasters told state officials this morning that the new storm may move farther out to sea than originally expected, lowering the risk for high winds and tides, Howard Glaser, state director of operations said at the press conference.
“If that’s true, that would be very good news,” Glaser said. “However, we are preparing for potential impacts. Even though the storm would not by any means be a Sandy, it could bring high winds and some coastal flooding to already vulnerable areas.”
Sandy, the biggest Atlantic storm in history, raked the region with winds of as much as 100 miles (161 kilometers) an hour. Its surge of more than 13 feet inundated transit tunnels and underground utilities, destroyed homes and chewed away natural barriers such as beaches.
It disrupted voting for the presidential election and caused confusion in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island, where polling places had to be moved from storm-damaged or power-deprived buildings.
Bloomberg said thousands of people, at least half in public housing, may need shelter as power remains out in some areas.
The mayor named Brad Gair, 52, who served as recovery officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the Sept. 11 attacks, as director of housing-recovery operations.
The arrival of colder weather with so many residents still blacked out “is the next big problem for us,” said Bloomberg, who is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Emergency workers were distributing blankets along with food and water, and police used loudspeakers to urge people to go where they could be warm and safe, he said.
All city parks, playgrounds and beaches will be closed tomorrow and Thursday because of the approaching storm, the mayor said. City Buildings Department inspectors will be ordering contractors to secure their construction sites, and all exterior work must cease by noon tomorrow, he said.
The mayor said the storm, while not as powerful as Sandy, could topple trees already weakened in soaked soil, and in the event it’s accompanied by ice or snow, could weigh down trees still bearing leaves.
Christie, who lost power at his Mendham home until last night, told reporters today that about 566,000 customers remain without electricity. He said 4,000 people displaced are in local and county shelters and the state has closed its emergency shelters. There is capacity to house more people if subsequent evacuations are ordered, Christie said.
All state roads are open and New Jersey workers are helping to clear local and county roads, the governor said. Route 35, the road that links New Jersey’s barrier island resort communities, was washed out and “like a war zone,” he said. Electricity to power commuter trains into New York City is still “not fully operational,” he said.
About 31 percent of the 36,000 homes and businesses in Brick Township had no power today, according to Jersey Central Power & Light. Winds from the new storm could fell damaged trees, further complicating the task of restoring power, said Sergeant Keith Reinhard of the township police department.
The town is setting up an elementary school to shelter residents and assigning school buses to transport others to state facilities.
“We’re prepared for 10,000 people, but we don’t think we’ll get 10,000,” Reinhard said. “A lot of people are gone.”
In Atlantic County, which includes low-lying mainland and the 40,000-population casino resort of Atlantic City among its barrier-island municipalities, crews were ridding the streets of the Sandy-damaged belongings before the arrival of high winds, according to Linda Gilmore, a spokeswoman for the county.
“We’re kind of used to nor’easters, but because it is on the heels of Sandy, some of that sand that normally protects the barrier islands is gone,” Gilmore said by phone. “I can’t tell you how many washers and dryers we have out now, and all the debris that you’re going to have flying all over the place.”
’Took The Chance’
Waterfront homes in Brick Township were a scene of trash bags, ruined carpets and furniture. Ada Zdanowicz, 30, dragged a trash bag from her flooded basement and placed it with a dozen others. She’s leaving tonight with her daughter and is less worried than she was about Sandy, through which she stayed home.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as the first time around,” Zdanowicz said. “I took the chance then. I probably shouldn’t again.”
Jeff Chapman just returned to his home in Brick two days ago, after riding out Sandy’s aftermath in Pennsylvania, and is still cleaning up from the four feet of water that rushed in from the bay. His white Shelby GT500 Mustang had its hood popped in the driveway. It still won’t start. He’s getting ready to turn around and leave again.
“It’s unbelievable, there’s just no name for it,” said Chapman, who owns a local used car dealership. “I’ve lived in New Jersey for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.” “Will I leave? Never. Once you get sand in your shoes you never get rid of it.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Goldman in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Terrence Dopp in Westwood at email@example.com; William Selway in Brick Township at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com