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Nor'easter remains on track to hit East Coast midweek

A significant wintry storm is still on track to strike the same East Coast areas hit by Superstorm Sandy on Wednesday. 

The National Weather Service's forecast center in College Park, Maryland, which watches winter storms, put out a long-range notice last week saying a nor'easter was on course to hit the mid-Atlantic and New England states midweek.

Unlike Sandy, this doesn't have a tropical component. It would likely mean snow, moderate or heavier rainfall and winds that could be above 40 mph.

According to the Chron.com's SciGuy science blog, the storm has the appearance of a classic nor'easter, and will have significant effects from New Jersey northward. And the National Weather Service forecast predicts temperatures could drop into the 20s.

With overnight temperatures already sinking into the 30s and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses still without electricity, New York City officials handed out blankets and urged people to go to temporary warming shelters set up during the day at senior citizen centers.

At the same time, government leaders began to grapple with a daunting, longer-term problem: where to find housing for the tens of thousands of people whose homes could be uninhabitable for weeks or months because of a combination of storm damage and cold weather.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said "it's going to become increasingly clear" that homes without heat are uninhabitable as temperatures drop. He said that means that residents who have been reluctant to leave their homes will have to, and that they'll need housing.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 30,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers may need to be relocated -- a monumental task in a city where housing is scarce and fiercely expensive -- though he said that number would probably drop to 20,000 within a couple of weeks as power is restored in more places.

In a heavily flooded Staten Island neighborhood, Sara Zavala spent the night under two blankets and layers of clothing because the power was out. She had a propane heater but turned it on for only a couple of hours in the morning. She did not want to sleep with it running at night.

 "When I woke up, I was like, 'It's freezing.' And I thought, 'This can't go on too much longer,"' said Zavala, a nursing home admissions coordinator.

On a basketball court flanked by powerless apartment buildings in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, volunteers for the city handed out bagels, diapers, water, blankets and other necessities. Genice Josey filled a garbage bag until it was bulging.

"Nights are the worst because you feel like you're outside when you're inside," said Josey, who sleeps under three blankets and wears longjohns under her pajamas. "You shiver yourself to sleep." She added: "It's like we're going back to barbaric times where we had to go find food and clothing and shelter."

Six days after Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coastline in an assault that killed more than 100 people in 10 states, gasoline shortages persisted across the region, though odd-even rationing got under way in northern New Jersey in an echo of the gas crises of the 1970s. More than 900,000 homes and businesses were still without power in New Jersey, and nearly 700,000 in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island.

With more subways running and most city schools reopening on Monday, large swaths of the city were getting back to something resembling normal. But the coming week could bring new challenges, namely an Election Day without power in hundreds of polling places, and nor'easter barreling toward the area.

"Well, the first storm flooded me out, and my landlord tells me there's a big crack in the ceiling, so I guess there's a chance this storm could do more damage," John Lewis said at a shelter in New Rochelle, N.Y. "I was hoping to get back in there sooner rather than later, but it doesn't look good."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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