NYC escapes early flooding as nor'easter hits

Snow falls as gulls fly over a large Snow falls as gulls fly over a large debris pile as a Nor'easter arrives in the Rockaway neighborhood. (Nov. 7, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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New York City seemed to avoid significant flooding Wednesday as a nor'easter buffeted the storm-weary region with gusting winds, rain and snow, but officials weren't taking any chances as police helped evacuate people in vulnerable areas of Brooklyn and Queens.

The first high-tide cycle on Wednesday didn't create any flooding problems in flood Zone A, the low-lying coastal areas, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city could probably get through the storm without any more problems on its battered coastline. He said coastal areas face a risk of some flooding until 6 a.m.

Still, with winds expected in the 25- to 40-mph range and gusts as high as 60 mph, Bloomberg said the wintry blast could prove hazardous and exacerbate the hardships suffered by people already without power and heat.

The FDNY has additional ambulances and 20 special task forces equipped with inflatable boats, pumps, chain saws and other equipment near potential flood areas in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

In the Jamaica Bay communities already badly battered by Sandy, residents readied themselves for yet another blow.

In Broad Channel, where roads are lined with waterlogged clothing, bedding and other items discarded from flooded homes that remained without heat, people filed in and out of American Legion Post 272 on Cross Bay Boulevard. Volunteers there distributed warm clothing, portable heaters, hot meals and other supplies.

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Bloomberg said about 66,000 customers in the city were still without power. That was down from 91,000 on Tuesday. Half of them faced a major hurdle to restoring power because wiring systems and power panels flooded during the storm and were covered with salt water, he said. They need to be cleaned and inspected.

"If salt water is on wires or the switches, circuit breakers, energizing those could easily start a fire, and that's the last thing we need," he said.

In Breezy Point, members of the U.S. military, including about 90 Marines from the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics group, helped a few returning residents rescue items from their homes.

The Marines used 150-gallon-per-minute pumps to clear water from basements. Nearby, Navy Seabees cleared away debris blocking access to some homes, stacking battered chairs, siding and roofing on the sand by the Atlantic's edge.

Among them was Sgt. Alan Goldenshteyn of the Bronx, who came up from Camp Lejeune with the Marine contingent Sunday. He said he has not yet had a chance to visit relatives in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, whose home suffered water damage. But he said he was happy to be making a difference in Breezy Point. "It's good to get up here and help," Goldenshteyn said. "People have been really happy to have us here."

The death toll from Sandy also increased to 41 after William McKeon, 78, of Shore Front Parkway in Rockaway, died at Jamaica Hospital of injuries suffered during the storm, the NYPD said.

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