NEW YORK CITY — A nor'easter sent an icy chill through an already battered city Wednesday, sending residents in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy scrambling to prepare themselves for the latest onslaught.
A wintry mix of snow, sleet and rain pelted the five boroughs starting midday, bringing plummeting temperatures and prompting emergency officials, including FEMA, to pack up and leave.
Though forecasters said the storm won't pack nearly the same punch as Sandy and no official evacuation orders had been issued as of Wednesday afternoon, officials were warning residents that the nor'easter was expected to be significant.
At a press briefing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said residents in low-lying areas should consider seeking shelter elsewhere, but stopped short of declaring an official evacuation.
"We haven’t and won’t order the kind of large-scale evacuation that we did in advance of Hurricane Sandy," Bloomberg said. “You’ve got to be very careful that if they leave and come back and say 'oh, no damage or anything,' the next time they’re not gonna leave.”
But residents in neighborhoods prone to flooding — Breezy Point, Hamilton Beach and Gerristen Beach, in particular — "should consider going someplace tonight to be a little bit more safe," he said.
It wasn't immediately clear how many residents were left in those neighborhoods after the Hurricane Sandy evacuation, but as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people may remain, Bloomberg said.
Because of the continued threat of flooding, NYPD officers have been driving through vulnerable coastal neighborhoods since Tuesday, making announcements over their loudspeakers to let residents know about the city's evacuation shelters, Bloomberg said.
"They’re doing that to encourage people who are elderly or homebound or who have infants to go someplace where they are certain to be safe and warm," he said.
Three senior centers and an adult care facility in the Rockaways were evacuated Tuesday night in order to protect their vulnerable residents.
Flooded streets Wednesday prompted police to reroute vehicles out of the Rockaways, blocking the Rockaway Freeway and forcing drivers to take the Cross Bay Bridge off the island at approximately 1:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The storm was expected to wallop the city with wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. The strongest winds were expected to pick up after 4 p.m, with a high wind warning expected to last until 4 a.m. Thursday.
There was less than half an inch of accumulation expected, "but it could get slushy," meteorologist Lauren Nash said.
The city also took additional precautions, halting construction across the city and shuttering all parks, playgrounds and beaches from noon Wednesday until noon Thursday.
Parks Department workers set up barriers around the entrances of Central Park at noon Wednesday and asked visitors there to leave. City officials are urging drivers to get off the roads by 5 p.m. Wednesday, or to be extremely cautious if they do have to drive.
There are no plans to shut subway, bus or bridge service as of Wednesday afternoon, an MTA spokesman said. Staten Island Ferry service continues to run as scheduled, according to a Department of Transportation spokeswoman, who said notifications will be made if that changes.