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Thousands More Lose Power as Nor'easter Blows Into New York

NEW YORK — Thousands of New Yorkers lost power Wednesday as a strong nor'easter blew into the city — including some residents who had only recently had their electricity restored following Hurricane Sandy.

The whipping winds and pelting snow knocked out power to 11,000 Con Edison customers in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Westchester, as trees that were already damaged in the hurricane sagged and toppled, said John Miksad, Con Ed's senior vice president of electric operations. 

"It is causing additional outages," Miksad said of the storm Wednesday evening. "I know everyone's patience is wearing thin. We're working as hard as we can."

Under ordinary circumstances, Miksad predicted that the nor'easter, with its several inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour or more, would cut power to about 30,000 customers. But the damage will likely be far greater because the region is still recovering from the hurricane, he said.

Miksad did not immediately know how many of those who lost electricity Wednesday had also lost power during the hurricane, but he said at least some of the outages were repeats.

The storm was also hampering restoration of power to the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have not had any electricity since the hurricane hit more than a week ago.

Miksad said crews were still working late Wednesday afternoon to repair downed wires and other equipment, but he expected Con Edison to pull workers indoors for safety reasons as the storm ramped up.

"We are working for as long as it is safe to do so," Miksad said.

Once the storm is over, Con Edison will prioritize restoring power to Hurricane Sandy victims over those who just lost electricity in the nor'easter, Miksad said.

As the snowstorm bore down on New York, many who were without heat and power scrambled to prepare for the freezing night ahead.

About 23,000 residents in 123 public housing buildings still did not have heat or hot water Wednesday, the New York City Housing Authority said. 

And since Saturday, emergency rooms have seen seven hypothermia patients, all of whom survived, officials said. 

“I am mostly concerned that I have been freezing," said Alicia Urena, 79, a resident of the Grompers Houses on the Lower East Side. "I am not sure what the next storm is going to do."

Urena collected a free blanket from NYCHA on Wednesday before the nor’easter hit. She said her building has power, but no heat.

"I have a space heater, and I boil water on my stove," Urena said. “At night, I turn the heater off for safety.”

Kimberly Vasquez, 28, who also lives in the Grompers Houses, said she has been dressing her 18-month-old son and her 9-year-old daughter in double layers of pajamas and socks since her building lost heat in Hurricane Sandy last week.

Fearing the low temperatures expected to accompany Wednesday’s nor’easter, Vasquez sent her kids to stay with their grandparents in Queens, while she stuck it out in the apartment.

“It is terrible,” said Vasquez, a retail worker who said police suggested that she leave the building in advance of Wednesday’s storm.

“We are trying to do everything we normally do — wash dishes, clean teeth — but it feels like you have arthritis with the cold.”

No one was forced to evacuate for Wednesday’s nor’easter, although the mayor recommended that those living in Breezy Point, Hamilton Beach and Gerritsen Beach — areas that suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy — stay with friends or family or at one of the city’s shelters until the storm passed.

The FEMA disaster relief centers set up in the city to help those impacted by Sandy shuttered late this morning, because of the weather.

The city has opened more than 200 heating centers since Hurricane Sandy hit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, and 1,500 electric space heaters were given out Wednesday to people in Broad Channel and the Rockaways.

But that won’t help those still struggling without power.  

Dominick Ferraro, 68, an artist, lives on the sixth floor of 160 Front St., a building near the South Street Seaport that still lacks both heat and power.

Ferraro left the day after Hurricane Sandy hit but returned Wednesday because he said he couldn't stand being away from the city any longer.

He climbed the six flights of stairs to his apartment in total darkness, save for light from his flashlight, and then lit candles and his stove, for light and warmth.

"I was born poor so I know what it's like — no lights, no heat. My mother used to put the stove on, so we're back 50 years ago," Ferraro said.

But Ferraro managed to keep his sense of humor and perspective, despite the dire conditions. He said he was well-stocked with red wine, which would go nicely with the candles lighting his apartment.

"I feel like I belong here, I'm a New Yorker. I'm not going to run. This is my house, my home,” Ferraro said. “This is water and cold; it's not 9/11."

With reporting by Jill Colvin.