NEW YORK – A nor’easter that threatens to lash the mid-Atlantic with freezing rain, snow and high winds appeared to be weakening in the Atlantic, but still could cause new flooding and power outages and hamper recovery efforts in areas that suffered the brunt of Superstorm Sandy last week.
The new storm is far smaller than Sandy, but officials fear low-lying areas in New Jersey and southern New York are vulnerable because Sandy destroyed so many sand dunes and other natural barriers, as well as man-made seawalls and jetties, that normally limit damage from a high storm surge.
Officials said the new storm may cause a tidal surge of 2 to 41/2 feet when it peaks tonight, enough to cause fresh flooding.
The National Weather Service said late Tuesday that the storm was moving farther offshore, lessening the likely impact, but “will definitely be a heavy rain and gusty wind producer while churning up the seas.”
Brick Township in New Jersey issued a mandatory evacuation, ordering residents along its waterfront to leave for shelters and higher ground. Other parts of the town “were strongly encouraged to seek shelter from the storm. About 30 percent of Brick Township was still without electricity from Sandy.
“Moderate flooding under normal conditions becomes major flooding under other conditions,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters.
In anticipation of the storm, airlines canceled at least 241 flights scheduled for today, mostly in and out of Newark Liberty International in New Jersey and La Guardia and John F. Kennedy International airports in New York.
Like Sandy, the latest storm will strike at the nation’s busiest airspace, disrupting air travel across the country. By canceling flights before the storm, industry experts say airlines can move planes out of harm’s way and avoid leaving passengers stranded or on much-delayed flights.
Christie said utility crews working to restore power would be slowed by the storm because they can’t operate some equipment in winds greater than 40 mph.
Across the region, more than 930,000 people remained without electricity Tuesday afternoon, according to the Department of Energy. With overnight temperatures expected to drop into the 30s, and tens of thousands of people without heat or adequate housing, government agencies and relief groups raced to bring more supplies to hard-hit areas of New York’s outer boroughs and New Jersey.
New York City did not order residents to evacuate, but officials planned to close parks, playgrounds and beaches for 24 hours at noon EST today to protect people from falling trees or high surf.
“We could have some snow on the ground and certainly snow on the trees,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “That makes the trees that already have their bases flooded more likely to fall over.”