POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. – A week after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast, wiping out entire communities, residents were bracing for yet another potentially damaging storm.
A nor'easter taking shape Monday in the Gulf of Mexico was expected to begin its march up the coast, eventually passing within 50 to 100 miles of the wounded New Jersey coastline on Wednesday. The storm was expected to bring winds of up to 55 mph, coastal flooding, up to 2 inches of rain along the shore, and several inches of snow to Pennsylvania and New York.
One of the biggest fears was that the storm could bring renewed flooding to parts of the shore where Sandy wiped out natural beach defenses and protective dunes.
"It's going to impact many areas that were devastated by Sandy," said Bruce Terry, the lead forecaster for the National Weather Service. "It will not be good."
Some communities were considering again evacuating neighborhoods that were hit hard by Sandy and where residents had only recently been allowed to return. No town had made a final decision to do so as of Monday evening.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided against a new round of evacuations.
"When Sandy was coming in, all the signs said that we were going to have a very dangerous, damaging storm, and I ordered a mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas, something that a lot of people don't like to hear," he said. "In this case, we don't think that it merits that. It is a different kind of storm; the wind is coming from a different direction."
In Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., Laura DiPasquale was frantically going through dozens of black plastic trash bags that volunteers had stuffed full of her household belongings and brought to the curb, trying to make sure nothing she intended to keep had gotten tossed out with debris like waterlogged drywall. Already, she had found treasured Christmas ornaments amid the detritus.
"I don't know where anything is; I can't even find my checkbook," she said. "I have no idea what's in any of these bags. And now another storm is coming and I feel enormous pressure. I don't know if I can do this again. It is so overwhelming."
People were advising DiPasquale to just let go of most of the stuff in the bags.
"I found an ornament that says 'Baby's First Christmas.' People said, 'Laura, you don't need that,'" she said. "Yes, I do need that. I'll wash it, or I'll sanitize it, or I'll boil it if I have to. Money means nothing to me. Sentimental stuff is everything."
The new storm was expected to move up the coast Tuesday, past Georgia and South Carolina. By Wednesday morning, it was expected to be off Virginia or Cape Hatteras, N.C.
Terry said the storm could slow down somewhat once it gets off the New Jersey coast, meaning its effects could linger. They include rain, high winds and tidal surges, although less than those that accompanied Sandy.
Coastal flood and high wind watches were in effect for parts of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged residents to take the storm seriously.
"Everything people did to get people ready for Sandy, we need to do for the nor'easter," she said.
She urged people to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly.
"We have people who want to stay in their homes," Napoletano said. "We know that."
On Staten Island in New York City, Irina Vainauskas and her husband survived Sandy even as water reached the third step of the staircase from their living room to their second floor. They went upstairs with food, water and their cats.
They're prepared to do it again, if necessary.
"Of course we're concerned, but we're just tired to be afraid and to think about everything," she said in her ravaged living room.
"We're survivors. We're from the former Soviet Union," she added. "If we survive the Soviet Union, we will survive this storm, too."
Marilyn Skillender was picking through the pile of her belongings at the curb of her home about two blocks from the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach, worrying about the next storm. She instantly flashed back to a December 1992 nor'easter that pummeled the Jersey shore over two days with widespread flooding and property damage. Her house was inundated in that storm, too.
"Our defenses are down now," she said. "As bad as last week was, if we get new damage, where are they gonna put all the new stuff that's wrecked? If this debris starts floating around, how will we be able to move? All that sand they plowed away, if it comes back again, I don't even want to think about it."
Jim Mauro was one of the few professing not to be overly concerned about the impending nor'easter. A house he owned in Mantoloking was literally wiped off the map by Sandy last week. It wound up in Barnegat Bay.
"What more can it do?" he asked. "I mean, the house is literally gone, right down to the bare sand where it used to be."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
Associated Press writers Michael Hill, Jennifer Peltz and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this story.