As winter storm Jonas batters the East Coast with ‘life-threatening blizzard conditions’, New York and New Jersey have been warned that rising tides will cause widespread flooding.
For coastal communities, the powerful snowstorm brings an added danger beyond freezing temperatures, power outages and slippery roads.
Coastal flooding has already been reported in New Jersey, power outages have affected 90,000 households and New Jersey Transit has been temporarily shut down on Saturday.
Meanwhile in neighboring New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has also declared a state of emergency and warned citizens to stay off the streets all day today as winds reach up to 60mph with snow falling at a rate of three inches an hour.
At a press conference at 12.30pm, Cuomo announced a ‘ban on travel’ on the roads in the city and southern parts of the state from 2.30pm. He also announced the Long Island Railroad and overground subway routes in the city will stop running at 4pm as tracks have begun to ice over.
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New York and New Jersey have been warned that rising tides will cause widespread flooding. Pictured, flooding in a group of homes off of Route 10 in Cape May, New Jersey
Coastal flooding has already been reported in New Jersey, including along Beach Avenue in Cape May, New Jersey
A spokesman for the MTA urged people to visit the transit authority’s website for the latest updates on closures and delays before travel.
The storm’s arrival coincides with a full moon, meaning strong winds will combine with a high tide to cause significant flooding. The flood warning comes as many communities are still struggling to recover from the massive devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy three years ago.
Although officials have said that level of storm surge, they were nevertheless prepared for anything – and have said the storm is expected to be one of the worst to ever hit the region.
The beach resort town of Seaside Heights in New Jersey currently has a population of about 1,000, a far cry from the 3,000 year-round residents it had before Sandy, according to borough administrator Christopher Vaz. Many residents are still unable to return to homes destroyed by the floodwater.
Vaz said officials have encouraged elderly and sick residents to consider leaving low-lying areas. The flooding is ‘absolutely’ more of a concern than the snow, Vaz said.
‘We can handle six or 12 inches of snow,’ he said.
In Ocean City, just south of Atlantic City, crews have used bulldozers to block beach access points with sand in an effort to slow down any storm surge. A number of vehicles, including repurposed military trucks, were available in case evacuations are needed.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio was joined by more than dozen city officials as he declared winner weather emergency
The storm’s arrival coincides with a full moon, meaning strong winds will combine with a high tide to cause significant flooding. Pictured, waves crash on the beach in Cape May, New Jersey
Flooding has hit Beach Avenue in Cape May, New Jersey as as tidal storm surges compounded the misery caused by storm Jonas
New Jersey residents have been warned that rising tides will cause flooding and make winter storm Jonas even worse. Pictured, flooding along New York Avenue in North Wildwood, new Jersey
A van drives through a flooded street as ice and snow prevent drainage in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Most of the state was facing a blizzard warning from Friday evening until Sunday that called for up to 24 inches of snow
Frank Donato, who heads the Ocean City’s emergency management office, said the latest forecasts were calling for as much as an eight-foot tide on Saturday night. While that represents a significant storm surge, it is still two feet short of the level reached during Sandy.
‘This is pretty typical for a strong nor’easter,’ Donato said.
Officials said the years since Sandy had seen infrastructure improvements and hundreds of homes elevated above flood levels, though much of the work remains unfinished.
‘Not everyone is raised,’ said Paul Daley, the emergency management coordinator for the New Jersey shore community Toms River. ‘Some are still destroyed. Some are still in the design phase.’
Daley said crews have been out for days shoring up dunes on the beach using bulldozers.
‘We’re expecting the worst and hoping for the best,’ Daley said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has ‘high-axle vehicles’ and ‘swift water rescue teams’ ready to go and has designated 16 potential shelter sites if evacuations are ordered.
On Long Island, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said public works employees had been out for days clearing stormwater drains to ensure maximum capacity.
The county has acquired a lot of equipment since Sandy to respond to flooding, including inflatable rescue boats.
The flood warning comes as many communities are still struggling to recover from the massive devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy
Ice surrounds water pools close to the dunes in Cape May, New Jersey. More than 90,000 homes are without power across the state
A jogger trots during the snowstorm in Hoboken, New Jersey. Towns across the state are hunkering down during a major snowstorm that hit overnight
Sean Jackson and Gina Del Tatto push their child, Hayes, in a stroller as heavy snow falls in New York’s Upper West Side on Saturday
‘Our residents post-Hurricane Sandy are more aware of the devastation a storm can bring,’ he said. ‘Most of our residents are better prepared should they be asked to leave their home.’
‘Between the snow and the flooding, personally, I’m more worried about the flooding,’ New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
At a press conference on Saturday morning, he warned Long Island residents to prepare for flooding. ‘The flooding is probably the most problematic situation,’ he said. ‘It is the worst of Mother Nature’s wrath.’
On Saturday morning, New Jersey governor Chris Christie urged residents to stay off the roads and remain indoors during the storm.
In an update later in the morning, he confirmed that significant flooding has been reported in the state.
He said there were about 90,000 power outages but said the number is expected to rise.
Governor Christie urged people to shelter in the home of a friend or family member – or to go to an emergency shelter if they have nowhere nearby to go.
‘Don’t stay in the cold,’ he said. ‘We have shelters open in every county in the state. They will keep you warm, get you fed.’
New Jersey Govenor Chris Christie listens to a briefing on a snowstorm during a visit to the New Jersey Department of Transportation Traffic Management and Technology Center on Saturday
The winter storm mixed with high tide causes flooding in a group of homes off of Route 10 on January 23 in Cape May, New Jersey
A woman tries to help her friend free her stuck car early on Saturday morning in Ventnor, New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie has urged people to get off the roads and find shelter
He said people should call their local police department if they have trouble getting to a shelter.
‘This is my 17th snow emergency in six years,’ he added. ‘We know how to do this.’
The looming storm prompted Christie, who had initially said he would continue to campaign in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination, to reverse course and head back to his state on Friday evening.
Christie made headlines in 2012 when he toured communities devastated by Sandy with President Barack Obama.
While he drew praise for his response from many state residents, he also endured criticism from conservatives when he commended Obama’s response, just days before the Democratic president was re-elected for a second term.
And speaking to CNN earlier this morning, Governor Christie, who will continue to travel around the state on Saturday, said: ‘We are ready to get the National Guard out for evacuations if necessary and we have shelters in every county in the state.
‘People should stay inside, not only is the weather incredibly nasty but it is helping us keep roads passable. We have two to three inches falling an hour. Please stay inside, please don’t drive today.’
The National Weather Service said the winter storm could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region. Pictured, a police officer blocks a street near flooding during a storm in Atlantic City
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said the winter storm could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region.
‘It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people,’ said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather service, adding that it could easily cause more than $1billion in damage.
A state of emergency has been declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York and parts of other states.
Blizzard warnings or watches were in effect along the storm’s path, from Arkansas through Tennessee and Kentucky to the mid-Atlantic states and as far north as New York.
In New York City, all bus services have been suspended starting at midday today due to poor visibility, while subway services are under review.
At a press conference announcing the state of emergency for New York City and Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange Counties on Saturday morning, governor Cuomo said: ‘Anyone who has looked out the window understands the conditions.
The MTA announced it would suspend bus service beginning at noon Saturday until further notice. New York City subway, Metro-North and Long Island Railroad service is expected to continue with possible delays.
Cuomo urged motorists to stay home so plows could clear the streets. Drivers should only travel for absolute emergencies, he said.
Almost 1,000 flights out of airports in the New York City area airports have been cancelled.
Snow was forecast to start falling in New York at around 4am on Saturday, but the first flakes fell at around 10pm last night. The city’s expected total snowfall was increased Friday to 18 to 24 inches.
But forecasters said ‘the winds are going to be the real problem; that’s when we’ll see possible power outages.’ The result could create snowdrifts four to five feet high, so even measuring it for records could be difficult.
A major snowstorm is upon the East Coast this weekend with some areas expected to receive over a foot of snow. Pictured, waves pound the beach in Cape May