Storm-ravaged Long Island braces for nor'easter

Louisiana Street in Long Beach, New York. (Nov. Louisiana Street in Long Beach, New York. (Nov. 6, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Storm-weary Long Island faces a nor'easter that arrives here Wednesday with the potential to prolong the power outages and gasoline shortage that have plagued recovery from last week's lethal superstorm.

The National Weather Service forecast winds of 25 to 40 mph for Long Island, with gusts up to 60 mph. "Winds of this magnitude will be capable of producing downed trees and power lines," the weather service said.

Rainfall from a half-inch to an inch is expected, with the chance of a rain-snow mix Wednesday night on western Long Island. Though the storm is puny compared with Sandy, unwelcome moderate coastal flooding is forecast, especially around high tide this evening and in the morning Thursday.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano on Tuesday stressed that those who live in Nassau's flood zones remain under an evacuation order and said the county can find shelter for those with nowhere to go.

"Now with an impending nor'easter, we appeal to our residents once again for their common sense," Mangano said. "Please leave those residences, find shelter out of the flood zone. It's for your own health, safety and welfare."

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Though the storm passed through a week ago, Sandy again proved baleful Tuesday. A Centereach man, Nicholas Lourikas, 66, was helping to cut down damaged trees behind the Hauppauge Palace Diner around 11 a.m. when one fell and struck his head. He was pronounced dead at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown.

If it's determined that Lourikas died from the blow to the head, rather than some other cause such as a heart attack, his death will be the eighth fatality on Long Island related to Sandy.

The seventh was a homeless woman, Anne Marie Dolan, 57, who lived in the woods behind a Commack Sports Authority. She was found Monday, police said. A tree had fallen and killed her.

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With the nor'easter approaching, the Federal Emergency Management Agency temporarily closed 10 of its mobile disaster recovery centers in the metropolitan area at 6 p.m. last night as a precaution until the storm passes.

Three centers -- in Brooklyn, Riverhead and Hauppauge -- were slated to stay open.

FEMA said that as of late Monday it had received 34,834 applications for assistance in Nassau and 12,587 in Suffolk. Including New York City and Westchester and Rockland counties, the agency said it had gotten 122,101 applications and dispensed more than $156 million in aid.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who oversees FEMA, paid a visit to the Treasure Island Marina in south Seaford Tuesday, arriving in a seven-car motorcade led by New York State Police.

"We can anticipate . . . that we're going to have some more power outages associated with this nor'easter," Napolitano said. "How bad those power outages will be we do not know. . . . Do all the things you did in advance of Sandy; make sure that you get out of harm's way. If local officials tell you to evacuate, please evacuate."

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Long Island Rail Road spokesman Sam Zambuto said the service is "monitoring the weather forecast and watching the storm closely." The LIRR will have extra crews out Wednesday to help protect against flooding and wind damage that could impact service, Zambuto said.

Late Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that the Holland Tunnel would reopen to commuters at 5 this morning.

At stations pumping gas Tuesday, long lines continued to confound drivers, despite regular gasoline barge deliveries to Long Island terminals. Delivery truck drivers and gas company executives reported long waits to fill their tanks at supply terminals in Inwood and Holtsville, as well as difficulty getting around waiting vehicles to unload at service stations.

Sounding a familiar theme, Cuomo said again Tuesday that progress on gas was being made.

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"The fuel delivery system is coming back online slowly," said Cuomo, who added that panicked buying had compounded the problem. "We're now buying more fuel than we would normally be buying."

The governor also said the state had gotten approval from the federal Department of Agriculture to extend certification periods for households getting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, once known as food stamps.

Residents of Long Island and other areas of the state whose benefits were to end in October or November will get a one-month extension, which should allow them time to recertify and ease the burden on local social service agencies that help manage the SNAP program.

The Long Island Power Authority, which has come under criticism from elected leaders and the public for its response to the storm, said it cut the outages on Long Island to around 200,000 Tuesday.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said Wednesday's nor'easter could cause further outages and that the utility has taken preventive steps. "In addition to the 10,000 restoration workers restoring power from Sandy, we are looking at those areas where the system may be vulnerable to high winds, and hardening those areas," he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed Tuesday that two breaches Sandy tore through the South Shore barrier beach in Suffolk will be repaired, with planning for the work to start as early as next week.

Two barge operators already in the New York area will be diverted to fill in the breaches near Smith Point County Park and Cupsogue County Park, said corps spokesman Chris Gardner.

With the nor'easter season here, elected leaders had expressed concern that winter storms could widen the breaches and possibly raise water levels in vulnerable back bays.

"The Army Corps' ability to start with work immediately is good news for Fire Island and for all of southern Long Island residents who rely on flood protection from the barrier island," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

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