New York City and surrounding areas braced Saturday for a wallop from a winter storm well into what was supposed to be spring.
A flood watch was in effect for New York City, Long Island and some northern suburbs as the National Weather Service predicted 2 to 4 inches of rain and wind gusts up to 50 mph, meteorologist John Koch said Saturday morning. Snow and sleet were possible inland, he said.
The nor’easter was coming surprisingly late in an unusual year in which temperatures have been lower than normal throughout April, Koch said.
“This is very odd for this time of year,” he said of the storm. “This is something that you would expect to see more in the middle of winter.”
The rain was expected to start early Sunday and linger into Monday night as the storm crawled along the coast, Koch said.
“The potential does exist that we have significant flooding problems, either from the heavy rain or directly from rising rivers and streams,” he said.
The New York National Guard was alerting units that might be needed for emergency work as local communities readied sandbags, cleaned drains and made other preparations. Officials urged residents to take their own precautions.
“It is imperative that the public be aware of the potential problems associated with this storm and plan accordingly,” Gov. Eliot Spitzer said in a statement Friday. “Even though it may be spring, we need to take this warning seriously.”
The combination of rain, onshore winds and the approach of one of the spring’s highest tides on Tuesday could add up to significant coastal surges along Long Island Sound on western Long Island and in Westchester, Koch said.
“There is potential for a very bad storm,” said Joseph Williams, the commissioner of fire, rescue and emergency services in Long Island’s Suffolk County. The county alerted emergency workers to be ready to respond, and neighboring Nassau County sped up its schedule for cleaning drain pipes.
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management urged residents to secure trash cans and other objects at risk of blowing away, and to ready emergency supplies and evacuation plans. The city has coastal areas in each borough that may flood in such storms.
North of the city, officials and residents were making preparations in places prone to flooding.
Westchester County officials were filling sandbags, clearing catch basins, and readying boats and road barricades. In Rockland County, utilities lined up extra crews, while emergency agencies got ready for the possibility of power outages, car wrecks and flooding.
“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Stony Point Police Chief Pat Brophy.