First the storm, then the power cuts, now a new peril – snow


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The Independent US

Temperatures plunged across the battered American north-east today, adding to the misery of communities already struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy.

The New York state governor, Andrew Cuomo, warned that the cold snap could leave "tens of thousands" of people whose homes were damaged last week in need of alternative housing.

With millions of people still affected by power cuts and fuel shortages, Mr Cuomo said many properties would be without heating or hot water. "It's going to become increasingly clear that they are uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn't come on," he said. "The reality is going to be in the temperature. We're going to have tens of thousands of people that need housing solutions right away."

In New York city, up to 40,000 people in local authority accommodation were expected to need rehousing, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The warnings came as forecasters predicted biting winds and, in some parts of the north-east, the prospect of snow showers that could complicate the clean-up.

One meteorologist on the Weather Channel said that while the weather front "would not have near the magnitude of the impact Sandy had, the combination of rain, wind and snow will add insult to injury for the recovery process along the east coast".

The temperature in Manhattan slid to 4C yesterday, and is predicted to slide below freezing later this week.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the storm rose to 113 across the US. Sandy had already killed about 70 people as it moved over the Caribbean on its way to America's eastern seaboard. Mr Bloomberg put the death toll in New York city at 41, while in New Jersey police reported two new fatalities yesterday, including a 71-year-old who died of hypothermia.

Lower Manhattan's skyline finally came back to life over the weekend and most of the city's Subway network was operating again, but settlements in Staten Island and farther afield, in the worst-affected parts of New Jersey, still lacked basic services. Despite the efforts of officials and utility companies, more than 700,000 people in New York state were without electricity.

The availability of fuel, though much improved in New York, also remained a challenge in some parts. New Jersey remained hampered by petrol shortages, according to reports, with many drivers facing an emergency rationing regime.

On Friday, Mr Bloomberg, facing growing public opprobrium over his initial decision to press on with plans for the annual New York Marathon, was forced to backtrack and cancel yesterday's event. As the relief efforts continued, the Reuters news agency reported that more than 1,000 people, many of whom had planned to take part in the race, had instead boarded ferries bound for stricken Staten Island with supplies for storm-ravaged residents.

The recovery operation across the region was also complicating tomorrow's presidential election. Efforts were being made last night to ensure that displaced voters could get to polling stations to cast their ballots in the closely fought contest.