Fear, looting grip NYC; new storm threatens East Coast

NEW YORK -- Richard Chan prowled around his cold, dark Staten Island home with knives and a sword to protect it from thieves, standing his ground as another East Coast storm threatened and police went door-to-door with loudspeakers warning people to get out.

"I still have some valuables. I just can't leave it," he said Tuesday. "I just don't want to lose my stuff to some dirtbag."

While city officials strongly encouraged storm-ravaged communities to seek higher ground before Wednesday's nor'easter, Chan was among a group who adamantly refused to leave, choosing to stick close to the belongings they have left.

The new storm that threatened to complicate Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts today now looks like it will be weaker than expected.

As the storm moves up the Atlantic coast from Florida it now is expected to veer farther offshore than earlier projections. Even so, he said winds could still gust to 50 mph in New York and New Jersey Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Lauren Nash, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, said wind gusts might blow down tree limbs weakened from Sandy and cause more power outages. On Wednesday night, gusts may occasionally reach 60 mph in coastal Connecticut and Long Island, she said.

Since Sandy made landfall more than a week ago, killing 40 people in the city, more than 100 in 10 states and leaving millions without power, police said overall crime has actually gone down, not up. There are few reports of looting storm-damaged homes.

But Alex Ocasio wasn't convinced. The nursing home worker planned to ride out the latest storm in his first-floor Rockaway apartment -- even after seeing cars float by his front door during Sandy.

As the water receded, men dressed in dark clothes broke down the door and were surprised to find him and other residents inside. "They tried to say they were rescue workers, then took off," he said.

He put up a handmade sign -- "Have gun. Will shoot U" -- outside his apartment and started using a bed frame to barricade the door. He has gas, so he keeps on the oven and boils water to stay warm at night. "It gets a little humid, but it's not bad," he said. "I'm staying. Nothing can be worse than what happened last week."

In the Rockaways, one of the worst-hit areas, nightfall brings with it fears of looting, burglaries -- even armed robberies. The idyllic seaside boardwalk was in ruins, streets were covered with sand and cars scattered like trash.

"You can't go there after dark anymore," said 57-year-old construction worker William Gavin, pointing to a battered, lower-income section of his beachfront community. "It's a good way to get a gun pulled on you."

Earlier this week, a retired police officer fired warning shots at someone trying to break into her home in the middle of the night, said Sean Kavanagh.

"I don't blame her," said Kavanagh, also a retired officer. "I would have done the same."

Kavanagh says he's staying home, in part to protect it. "I leave and anything can happen," he said. "It's open season."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it wasn't wise to stay put.

"I think your life is more important than property," he said.

Kelly said police have arrested 123 people citywide since the storm blew in last week, 54 burglary arrests and 41 others stemming from gas line disputes. Police said the majority were in areas suffering from the storm.

"You would think, under the circumstances, you would see much more," Kelly said. "We haven't seen that."

Burglaries were up 6 percent citywide compared to the same period last year, but overall crime was down 27 percent, police said.

"I know it's been a long, long eight days," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned Tuesday that high winds associated with the approaching storm may mean some residents who regained power will lose it again, and the wind could also slow efforts to restore power. There is "nothing we can do to stop the storms," he said.

Storm surges along the coasts of New Jersey and New York are expected to reach perhaps 3 feet, only half to a third of what Hurricane Sandy caused last week, Masters said. While that should produce only minor flooding, he said it will still cause some erosion problems along the New Jersey coast and the shores of Long Island, where Sandy destroyed some protective dunes.

New York City ordered construction stopped and parks closed in advance of the nor'easter.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg said some residents ßin extremely flood-prone areas would be asked to leave their homes voluntarily "out of precaution." The city ordered construction stopped and parks closed for the upcoming storm.

Coastal Virginia could also get a surge of 2 or 3 feet, causing minor flooding on the east side of Chesapeake Bay during high tides Wednesday morning and evening, Masters said.

However, most of the storm's rain will stay offshore, with maybe an inch or two expected in Massachusetts and less than an inch elsewhere along the coast, he said.

Up to an inch of snow may fall in northeastern New Jersey and the lower Hudson River valley, weather service meteorologist Mike Layer said. Central Massachusetts and western Connecticut also could get an inch or two of snow, according to Masters.

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