* Rain, wind, sleet due to hit Sandy-battered areas
* Expected storm surge a threat to already flooded coastline
* Nursing homes, low-lying areas evacuated
* Fresh power outages affect 22,000 customers
By Karen Freifeld and Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK, Nov 7 (Reuters) - A wintry storm dropped snow and rain on the U.S. Northeast on Wednesday, bringing dangerous winds and knocking out power in a region where hundreds of thousands were still in the dark after Superstorm Sandy.
The nor‘easter storm brought fresh misery to thousands in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut whose homes were destroyed by Sandy when it smashed ashore on Oct. 29, bringing historic flooding and high winds. The storm killed 120 people in the United States and Canada.
Some 22,000 homes and businesses from the Carolinas to New York lost power on Wednesday, joining the more than 640,000 customers who still lacked electricity from one of the biggest and costliest storms ever to hit the United States.
New York and New Jersey evacuated the most vulnerable coastal areas ahead of the nor‘easter, which was forecast to bring a high tide about 2 feet (60 cm) above normal by early Thursday.
No major flooding was reported during the storm’s first hours, though New York warned residents whose homes had flooded during Sandy to consider moving to friends’ homes on higher ground or to city shelters.
Christine Jones, 73, said she had continued to live without heat or power in her beachside apartment building in coastal Far Rockaway in New York - even though it means climbing the stairs to her 10th floor apartment with a flashlight in hand.
“They tell us to evacuate,” she said, but she and her neighbors do not want to leave. “They’re scared they’re going to be robbed ... The teen-age boys ... they try to break in.”
In any case, Jones’ 1999 Buick was dead after water from the Atlantic Ocean washed over it during Sandy, leaving her with no means to evacuate the narrow peninsula she calls home.
‘WAITING FOR LOCUSTS AND PESTILENCE’
But authorities warned weary residents not to ignore this storm’s dangers.
“You have to prepare for the storm that’s coming in a few hours,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told residents. “I‘m waiting for the locusts and pestilence next,” he joked, in a reference to Old Testament plagues.
The low-pressure weather system brought wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) and could drop 2 inches to 4 inches (5-10 cm) of snow on New York City, the National Weather Service said.
Ice pellets hit Long Island and the storm lifted wave heights to nearly 20 feet (6 metres) off Nantucket, Massachusetts, AccuWeather reported.
School districts in Connecticut sent students home early as a precaution and the New York Stock Exchange removed the giant U.S. flag from its facade to protect it from high winds.
A mix of rain and snow fell on parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, causing airport delays.
Airlines canceled more than 1,700 flights, with Newark airport facing the most cancellations, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.
Cold and snow was particularly bad news to residents who lost heat.
“It’s coming up on 10 days with people being freezing in their homes,” said Peter DiPaola, town supervisor of Pelham, north of New York City.
“I lost all my winter clothing in the flood, so I am wearing three layers of things in order to stay somewhat warm and dry,” said Wayne Steinman, a resident of Staten Island, one of the parts of New York City hardest hit by Sandy. “Everything becomes overwhelming.”
Utilities warned that the storm would slow their efforts to restore power to homes and businesses.
“Up until today we have been making some good restoration progress. We’ve had some good restoration weather, but today is certainly an exception,” said John Miksad, senior vice president of electric operations at New York-area utility Consolidated Edison Inc. “We actually pulled back as a result of the weather today but we will be back out there first thing tomorrow morning.”
New York City authorities said they distributed 1,500 space heaters to residents of coastal Broad Channel and Rockaway, two low-lying neighborhoods that were hard hit by Sandy’s storm surge.
Many gasoline stations remained shut around the region, complicating residents’ efforts to flee the new storm.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed parks and beaches and temporarily halted outdoor construction ahead of the storm.
On the devastated New Jersey shore, a summer tourist haven where Sandy’s storm surge pushed entire homes across the street, the town of Brick issued a mandatory evacuation order for waterfront neighborhoods ahead of Wednesday’s storm. Middletown also ordered evacuations.