Nor'easter tracking map: New York, New Jersey in path of first winter storm

The nor'easter is set to cause major disruptions in the New York and New Jersey area. Photo: National Weather Service

NEW YORK (AP) — A nor'easter blustered into New York and Jersey on Wednesday, threatening to swamp homes all over again, plunge neighborhoods back into darkness and inflict more misery on tens of thousands of people still reeling from Superstorm Sandy.

Under ordinary circumstances, a storm of this sort wouldn't be a big deal, but large swaths of the landscape were still an open wound, with many of Sandy's victims still mucking out their homes and cars.

Thousands of people in low-lying neighborhoods staggered by the superstorm just over a week ago were warned to clear out, with authorities saying rain, wet snow and 60 mph gusts in the evening could set back the cleanup, topple trees wrenched loose by Sandy, and erase some of the hard-won progress made in restoring electricity 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."

In New Jersey, public works crews worked to build up dunes along the shore to protect the battered shoreline, and new evacuations were ordered in a number of communities already emptied by Sandy. New shelters opened.

In New York, police went to low-lying neighborhoods with loudspeakers, encouraging residents to leave, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't order new evacuations, and many people stayed behind, some because they feared looting, others because they figured whatever happens couldn't be any worse than what they had already gone through.

All construction in New York City was halted — a precaution that needed no explanation after a construction crane collapsed last week in Sandy's high winds and dangled menacingly over the streets of Manhattan— and parks were closed because of the danger of falling trees. Drivers were advised to stay off the road after 5 p.m.

Slick commute, but generally little impact near D.C.

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The Maryland State Highway Administration is urging motorists to plan for longer commute times because of a Nor'easter headed the state's way.

Officials say an expected cold rain may turn into snow showers Wednesday afternoon during peak travel times. Officials say any snow or sleet in the area will result in slower traffic speeds.

Officials plan to treat the roads with salt when it starts snowing, but those trucks will have to contend with the same traffic as motorists.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, the National Weather Service in Wakefield says the Eastern Shore and the Northern Neck will see some rain and wind Wednesday. But these areas will largely escape the brunt of a storm that now threatens northern coastal states that were slammed last week by Superstorm Sandy.

Meteorologist Mike Montefusco says the nor'easter will bring raw, chilly conditions to Virginia coastal areas and spotty rain elsewhere and possibly some light snow. The lows will dip into the 30s.

As for Thursday, drier conditions are forecast.

Sandy victims hunker down for another, yet weaker, storm

By early afternoon, the storm was bringing rain and wet snow to New York, New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. A couple of inches of snow were possible in New York City.

"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." Nevertheless, he said he was staying to watch over his house and his neighbors.

During Sandy, stores and houses all around him burned to the ground. The boardwalk, flagpoles, light poles and benches were heaved down the block or washed out to sea. His own house was largely spared, except for blown-out windows, but his car was swamped.

"Here we are, nine days later — freezing, no electricity, no nothing, waiting for another storm," Alexander said.

On Staten Island, workers and residents on a washed-out block in Midland Beach continued to pull debris — old lawn chairs, stuffed animals, a basketball hoop — from their homes, even as the 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.

The storm was a few hundred miles off New Jersey on Wednesday morning and was expected to remain offshore as it traveled to the northeast, passing near Cape Cod. Forecasters said there would be 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.

Its winds were expected to be well below Sandy's, which gusted to 90 mph.

Flights halted as storm approaches

Major airlines grounded numerous flights in and out of the New York area ahead of the storm, causing another round of disruptions to ripple across the country.

Ahead of the nor'easter, an estimated 270,000 homes and businesses in New York state and around 370,000 in New Jersey were still without electricity.

The storm could bring repairs to a standstill because of federal safety regulations that prohibit linemen from working in bucket trucks when wind gusts reach 40 mph.

Authorities warned also that trees and limbs broken or weakened by Sandy could fall and that even where repairs have been made, the electrical system is highly fragile, with some substations fed by only a single power line instead of the usual several.

"We are expecting there will be outages created by the new storm, and it's possible people who have just been restored from Sandy will lose power again," said Mike Clendenin, a spokesman for Consolidated Edison, the main utility in New York City.