Kevin McCoy and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
- Airlines ground more than 1,500 flights Wednesday and Thursday
- From 6 to 12 inches of snow forecast for parts of New York and New England
- The Salvation Army may suspend its mobile feeding kitchens until after storm clears
- Mandatory evacuations issued for many shore towns for second time in less than two weeks
A nor'easter packing high winds and heavy snow Wednesday slammed into the same stretch of Northeastern coastline where thousands of residents were still trying to cope with the devastation brought by Superstorm Sandy less than two weeks ago.
By Wednesday afternoon, snow was reported across a wide area of the East Coast, including Atlantic City and Trenton, N.J.; Philadelphia; New York City; and Hartford, Conn., where up to 3 inches was on the ground.
Airlines canceled more than 1,500 flights Wednesday and Thursday, according to flight-tracking company FlightAware, USA TODAY's Ben Mutzabaugh reports on Today in the Sky.
The National Weather Service predicted the storm would last into Thursday, bringing wind and wet snow to New Jersey, up to 3 inches of snow to Philadelphia and from 6 to 12 inches of snow to southeastern New York and New England.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said emergency teams were building up badly eroded dunes along the Jersey Shore for protection from high water surges.
"We're doing what we need to do to prepare for this, just like we did for Hurricane Sandy," Christie told reporters. "We're prepared."
The Salvation Army said warm clothing and shelter were a growing need for displaced homeowners -- in addition to food and water -- but warned it may be forced to suspend its mobile feeding kitchens until the storm clears.
In Bay Head, N.J., bulldozers hastily pushed piles of sand back into where well-rooted dune systems once stood, the Associated Press reported.
"We no longer have a dune system; there are just piles of sand back on the beach," said Councilwoman D'Arcy Rohan Green. "Hopefully, they will hold."
Mandatory evacuations were issued for many shore towns for the second time in less than two weeks. High winds, which could reach 65 mph, could extend inland throughout the day, potentially stalling efforts to restore power or causing further outages.
An estimated 369,000 New Jersey homes were still without power Wednesday morning, down from a peak of 2.76 million one week ago. The governor said the storm could hamper efforts to reduce the backlog of outages.
When he received an updated forecast about the nor'easter overnight Tuesday, "I said I'm waiting for the locusts and the pestilence next," Christie said.
Nor'easters typically bring strong northeasterly winds over the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as they move north along the Atlantic Coast.
They form during late fall, winter and early spring and often bring heavy rain, heavy snow and severe coastal flooding to the East.
Although meteorologists said this system lacked Sandy's devastating power, it still packed a threatening punch.
In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered all parks, playgrounds and beaches closed at noon and temporarily halted outdoor construction projects.
City officials encouraged motorists to stay off the road after 5 p.m., and to use extreme caution if they must drive.
Sustained winds of 20 mph to 40 mph -- with gusts as high as 60 mph -- were expected to buffet the nation's largest city.
A coastal flood advisory forecast a 3½-foot storm surge at the Battery, Manhattan's southern tip, on top of Wednesday afternoon's high tide, while a high surf warning forecast waves of 8-to-12 feet that could pound beaches already stripped of protective sand and dunes by Sandy.
As with Sandy, "it's not the rain but the wind and coastal flooding that could be a problem," said Adrienne Leptich, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "We really don't need this right now."
Bloomberg said city emergency workers urged residents in a handful of the lowest-lying coastal areas to move to higher ground, but he stopped short of issuing a mandatory evacuation as he did for Sandy.
City environmental workers and Army Corps of Engineers personnel, however, planned to examine city coastal areas that suffered the worst erosion during last week's storm to determine whether upgraded precautions were needed.
The mayor said police patrol cars would provide loudspeaker warnings in the areas hit hardest by Sandy, including Staten Island and the Rockaways.
"Even though it's not anywhere near as strong as Sandy -- nor strong enough, in normal times, for us to evacuate anybody -- out of precaution and because of the changing physical circumstances, we are going to go to some small areas and ask those people to go to higher ground," Bloomberg said.