Weather threatens US East Coast

A sheriff walks on a New Jersey road damaged by Superstorm Sandy on 30 October 2012. Picture: Twitter
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NEW YORK - Storm-battered New York and New Jersey ordered the evacuation of some areas devastated by deadly Superstorm Sandy as strong wind, rain and sleet threatened to lash the region on Wednesday, closing parks and beaches and halting outside construction work.

The looming bad weather has New York and New Jersey on edge again as the US Northeast struggles to recover from former hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 120 in the United States and Canada when it struck on 29 October as a rare hybrid storm.

New York City has ordered the evacuation of some low-lying hard-hit areas, including the Rockaways section of Queens and the south shore of Staten Island - home to nearly half of the 40 people killed in New York City by Sandy - while residents of at least two New Jersey towns have also been told to leave.

Outside construction in New York will stop at noon and parks and beaches will also close then for 24 hours.

"High winds are likely to bring down more limbs or entire trees," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Tuesday. "The waves are very dangerous and we don't need to send first responders into the ocean to save somebody who's being foolish."

The new storm was forecast to bring an inch (2.5 cm) of rain possibly mixing with sleet, winds gusts up to 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour), and a surge of up to 4.5 feet (1.4 meters), with coastal flooding expected late on Wednesday.

Authorities were scrambling to clear tens of thousands of tonnes of debris from Superstorm Sandy amid fears it could produce deadly projectiles as the National Weather Service issued high wind and coastal flood warnings.

"I'm really concerned these freak weather events are going to become a permanent feature in this new world of climate change," said Corey Birtles, 37, an analyst who lost power in his Manhattan apartment for four days after Sandy. "These events do seem to be more severe and more regular in recent times."

Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama for a second term after Sandy struck, citing his record on climate change. He said whether climate change was to blame for a rise in severe weather events, it should compel leaders to act on the issue.

Sandy struck one week before the US elections, leading New Jersey to take the uncommon step of allowing storm-displaced voters to cast ballots by email or fax, while New Yorkers were able to vote at any polling place by presenting an affidavit.

Makeshift polling places were also set up, but some voters still faced chaotic scenes and long lines. Obama, who won New York and New Jersey, won re-election for a second term over Republican rival Mitt Romney.