NEW YORK – The northeast region was just beginning to mend after Hurricane Sandy when winter storm Athena descended.
Leaving a blanket of thick, wet snow that snapped storm-weakened trees and downed power lines, the nor'easter interrupted recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey Thursday morning.
Households from Brooklyn to storm-battered sections of the Jersey shore and Connecticut that had waited for days without power because of Sandy were plunged back into darkness in temperatures near freezing.
However, roads in New Jersey were clear for the morning commute, and rail lines into New York City were running smoothly so far, despite snow still coming down heavily in some areas.
The nor'easter, as promised, brought gusting winds, rain and snow, but so far not the flooding that was anticipated.
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Elena McDonnell didn't waste energy worrying about the newest storm, not after living through Sandy last week and still without power in her Staten Island home.
"It isn't scary at all," the 42-year-old said. "This is nothing."
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 the electrical system highly fragile and many of Sandy's victims still mucking out their homes and cars and shivering in the deepening cold. As the storm picked up in intensity Wednesday evening, lights started flickering off again.
Mark L. Fendrick, of Staten Island, shared his frustration with others on Twitter Wednesday night, saying, "My son had just got his power back 2 days ago now along comes this nor'easter and it's out again."
Residents from Connecticut to Rhode Island saw 3 to 6 inches of snow on Wednesday. Worcester, Mass., had a whopping 8 inches of snow, and Freehold, N.J., had just over a foot overnight.
Good news was mixed with the bad, however: temperatures over the next few days will be in the 50s in southern New England, said meteorologist Frank Nocera, and on Sunday it could edge into the 60s.
In New York and New Jersey, rain and 60 mph wind gusts Wednesday evening.
"I am waiting for the locusts and pestilence next," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.
Ahead of the storm, public works crews in New Jersey built up dunes to protect the stripped and battered coast, and new evacuations were ordered in a number of communities already emptied by Sandy. New shelters opened.
Not everybody was hunkering down.
Katie Wilford was leaving her Brick Township home near Barnegat Bay as the nor'easter approached. She bundled her sons Nick, 14, and Matthew, 10, into the minivan in search of an open motel.
"It's a little overwhelming," she said. "I can't believe we're doing this again. We're going on Day 10 with no power. That's a long time. I just want the sun to come out and things to be normal again."
All construction in New York City was halted — a precaution that needed no explanation after a crane collapsed last week in Sandy's high winds and dangled menacingly over the streets of Manhattan. Parks were closed because of the danger of falling trees. Drivers were advised to stay off the road after 5 p.m. and part of the busy Long Island Expressway was shut down in both directions because of icing.
About 6:30 p.m., the Long Island Rail Road suspended service in and out of Penn Station.
Airlines canceled at least 1,300 U.S. flights in and out of the New York metropolitan area, causing a new round of disruptions that rippled across the country.
By the afternoon, the storm was bringing rain and wet snow to New York, New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. Huge waves pounded the beaches in New Jersey. Firefighters in New York City responded to reports of tree branches falling into buildings, blocking streets and knocking down electrical wires.
Forecasters said the nor'easter would bring 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.
Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, with most of the victims in New York and New Jersey. Long lines persisted at gas stations but were shorter than they were days ago. By early Thursday, more than 292,700 homes and business in New York state were without power, and another 403,000 in New Jersey lacked electricity. In some areas, the numbers began climbing again Wednesday evening.
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.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.