Just as parts of the Northeast are starting to get back to normal after the destruction of Superstorm Sandy, a separate nor’easter storm has its eyes set on the already battered area. High winds, low temperatures, snow and storm surges threaten the already vulnerable areas that bore the brunt of Sandy.
Residents in the disaster-stricken areas of Staten Island, Breezy Point, and the Rockaways in New York, as well as residents of the Jersey Shore are nervously preparing for another onslaught of unfortunate weather.
While the nor’easter, named Athena, on its own wouldn’t typically cause too much panic, its close proximity to Sandy is causing serious concern. Evacuations have yet to be mandatory, but officials are urging those in vulnerable areas to seek higher ground.
During a press conference on Wednesday, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "Even though it's not anywhere near as strong as Sandy – nor strong enough, in normal times, for us to evacuate anybody – out of precaution and because of the changing physical circumstances, we are going to go to some small areas and ask those people to go to higher ground.”
Bloomberg has ordered police to use their patrol car loudspeakers to warn residents about evacuating. The NYC mayor also tweeted on Tuesday that “NYC is halting all construction, closing all parks, & encouraging drivers to stay off the road after 5 p.m.”
The Mayor’s website also cautioned that, “Because Hurricane Sandy weakened trees and caused extensive damage and debris, the predicted wind speeds present an increased risk of more downed trees and tree limbs, as well as windblown debris. All New Yorkers are urged to stay indoors during inclement conditions.”
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie is reaching out to his residents in order to prepare for the storm. Speaking from Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island on Wednesday, Governor Christie said, “We’re doing what we need to do to get ready for this, just like with hurricane Sandy. We’re prepared.”
Atlantic County in southern New Jersey has already activated its emergency operations center and told residents to restock their emergency supplies.
Athena will roll in as many residents in the areas are still without power stemming from the wrath of Sandy. According to the Department of Energy’s situation report for November 7th, 383,143 customers are still without power in New Jersey, down from a peak of 2.62 million. In New York, 240,326 are still without power, down from a peak of 2,097,933.
With high winds being blown into already vulnerable areas, more power outages could occur as a result of Athena. Atlantic County spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said, "We have almost everyone who possibly can be reconnected back on. The idea we could now be facing power outages again does not come at a good time.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that while PSE&G in New Jersey is hoping to have full service resumed by the weekend, Athena could thwart its efforts. Federal work standards order that work shuts down in the event of 40+ miles per hour winds; Athena could pack potential 60+ miles per hour wind gusts.
NBC reports that, “Storm surges along the coasts of New Jersey and New York are expected to reach perhaps 3 feet, only half to a third of what Hurricane Sandy caused last week. While that should produce only minor flooding, it will still likely cause some erosion problems along the Jersey coast and the shores of Long Island, where Sandy destroyed some protective dunes.”
Residents in the so-called ‘vulnerable’ low-lying areas are already being urged to seek other accommodations during Athena, but some residents are resisting the advice under the notion that they have nothing left to lose after the tragedy of Sandy.
"Our house is already in shambles. What worse can happen?" said Lilly Wu, a displaced Staten Island resident who saw ten feet of water poured into her family home during Sandy.
The threat of looting remains strong in the worst-hit areas as well, causing more anxiety for people who are considering leaving the area before Athena strikes. “If it starts, I'm getting out of here," said Anthony Ferrante, who lives less than 1000 feet from the Staten Island shoreline and is fearful of looters arriving before his insurance adjustor does.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, "I think your life is more important than property.”