Flood threat, not snow, concerns New York, New Jersey coastal cities

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Winter Storm Jonas Coastal Flooding Danger

NEW YORK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - For coastal communities in New York and New Jersey, the powerful snowstorm menacing the East Coast this weekend brings an added danger beyond freezing temperatures, power outages and slippery roads.

More than three years after Superstorm Sandy caused massive flooding damage in the region, officials said they were not expecting that level of storm surge but were nevertheless prepared for anything.

"Between the snow and the flooding, personally, I'm more worried about the flooding," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

The storm's arrival coincides with a full moon, ensuring that strong winds will combine with a high tide to produce significant flooding. The threat comes as many communities are still struggling to recover following Sandy's devastation.

See images of the storm as it moves in:

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Winter Storm Jonas moving across country - to hit East Coast
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Flood threat, not snow, concerns New York, New Jersey coastal cities
This image provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center shows an early computer model forecasting the chances of a windy, strong sleet-snow storm hitting the East Coast this weekend, Jan. 22-23, 2016. Meteorologists say tens of millions of Americans from Washington to Boston and the Ohio Valley could be walloped by an end-of-the-week snowstorm. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via AP)
A woman walks along Broad Street during a snowstorm, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
A plow clears snow from a sidewalk as pedestrians pass by near the US Capitol in Washington, DC, as snow continues to fall on January 22, 2016. A monster blizzard threatening the US East Coast slammed into Washington on January 22, blanketing the nation's capital in snow as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter, warning the worst was yet to come. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Cars are covered in a blanket of snow in a residential street in the northwest of Washington, DC, as snow continues to fall on January 22, 2016. A monster blizzard threatening the US East Coast slammed into Washington on January 22, blanketing the nation's capital in snow as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter, warning the worst was yet to come. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman crosses K Street in Washington, DC, as snow continues to fall on January 22, 2016. A monster blizzard threatening the US East Coast slammed into Washington on January 22, blanketing the nation's capital in snow as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter, warning the worst was yet to come. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secret Service Agents stand guard outside the White House during a snowstorm in downtown Washington, DC on January 22, 2016. A monster blizzard threatening the US East Coast slammed into Washington on January 22, blanketing the nation's capital in snow as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter, warning the worst was yet to come. AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV / AFP / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: An exhibit is covered by snow at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial January 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. A winter snowstorm is forecasted for the East Coast this weekend with prediction of up to 30 inches of snow for the DC area. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jason Lee, a Western Kentucky University student from Korea, walks in the falling snow Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Bowling Green, Ky. Snow and drizzle began falling early Wednesday across much of Kentucky and Tennessee leading school districts and some universities to cancel classes and officials to warn motorists to drive carefully. (Miranda Pederson/Daily News via AP) 
Jason Lee, a Western Kentucky University student from Korea, walks in the falling snow Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Bowling Green, Ky. Snow and drizzle began falling early Wednesday across much of Kentucky and Tennessee leading school districts and some universities to cancel classes and officials to warn motorists to drive carefully. (Miranda Pederson/Daily News via AP)
Barbara Davis walks her dog Haddix in the snowy weather Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in downtown Bowling Green, Ky. Snow and drizzle began falling early Wednesday across much of Kentucky and Tennessee leading school districts and some universities to cancel classes and officials to warn motorists to drive carefully. (Miranda Pederson/Daily News via AP) 
Snow plows and traffic make their way north along Interstate 95 as snow begins to fall in Ashland, Va., Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Portions of Virginia are under a blizzard warning. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Duke Energy employees work to restore power in a neighborhood in Matthews, N.C., Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. A massive blizzard began dumping snow on the southern and eastern United States on Friday, with mass flight cancellations, five states declaring states of emergency and more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) predicted for Washington alone. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Pedestrian wait to cross 13th street in downtown Washington during an evening snowfall, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. As Washington prepares for this weekend's snowstorm, now forecast to reach blizzard conditions, a small clipper system pushed through the region Wednesday night causing massive delays and issues on the roads.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A bicyclist rides past the White House during evening snowfall in Washington,Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. As Washington prepares for this weekend's snowstorm, now forecast to reach blizzard conditions, a small clipper system pushed through the region Wednesday night causing massive delays and issues on the roads.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A woman walks through steam in a snow storm as she crosses the street in Washington, DC on January 20, 2016. / AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 21: The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore broadcasts news about the impending blizzard in Washington in front of Johnny's Half Shell near the U.S. Capitol at sunrise on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. The DC area is bracing for blizzard conditions over the weekend. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 21: Architect of the Capitol crews clear snow from the East Plaza of the Capitol at sunrise on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, after a storm left about an inch of snow in the Washington area overnight. The DC area is bracing for blizzard conditions over the weekend. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A Duke Energy worker uses a chainsaw to cut a fallen tree from power lines in Matthews, N.C., Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. A massive blizzard began dumping snow on the southern and eastern United States on Friday, with mass flight cancellations, five states declaring states of emergency and more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) predicted for Washington alone. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Duke Energy employees work to restore power in a neighborhood in Matthews, N.C., Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. A massive blizzard began dumping snow on the southern and eastern United States on Friday, with mass flight cancellations, five states declaring states of emergency and more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) predicted for Washington alone. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: A pedestrian walks in the snow on Broadway at West 81st street on January 23, 2016 in New York City. A major Nor'easter is hitting much of the East Coast as forecasts warn of snow falling to well over a foot in some areas. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: A New York City police office of the 20th District use snow blowers to clean the sidewalks at West 81st street on January 23, 2016 in New York City. A major Nor'easter is hitting much of the East Coast as forecasts warn of snow falling to well over a foot in some areas. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
Nearly empty shelves are seen in a supermarket in Washington, DC, on January 22, 2016. Thousands of flights were cancelled and supermarket shelves were left bare Friday as millions of Americans hunkered down for a winter storm expected to dump historic amounts of snow in the eastern United States. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Secret Service Uniformed Division stand guard in front of the White House under snowfall on January 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Thousands of flights were cancelled and supermarket shelves were left bare Friday as millions of Americans hunkered down for a winter storm expected to dump historic amounts of snow in the eastern United States. / AFP / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: People walk through the snow on the sidewalks of West 81st street on January 23, 2016 in New York City. A major Nor'easter is hitting much of the East Coast as forecasts warn of snow falling to well over a foot in some areas. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: Footprints in the snow lead to where commuters wait at a bus station at West 81st street on January 23, 2016 in New York City. A major Nor'easter is hitting much of the East Coast as forecasts warn of snow falling to well over a foot in some areas. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A walks in the street during a snowstorm January 22, 2016 in New York. / AFP / FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
Women walks on a snow covered street in Times Square on January 23, 2016 in New York. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on January 23, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. US news reports said at least eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A men pauses on a snow covered street in Times Square on January 23, 2016 in New York. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on January 23, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. US news reports said at least eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: A man takes advantage of an unplowed street to play with his dog in the Parkview neighborhood on January 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. Over a foot of snow has already fallen in the city in the past 24 hours, in what experts say could be a record-breaking storm. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: A phalanx of snow plows and city vehicles move north on Georgia Ave. in the Petworth neighborhood on January 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. Over a foot of snow has already fallen in the city in the past 24 hours, in what experts say could be a record-breaking storm. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
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The beach resort town of Seaside Heights in New Jersey currently has a population of about 1,000, a far cry from the 3,000 year-round residents it had before Sandy, according to borough administrator Christopher Vaz. Many residents are still unable to return to homes destroyed by the floodwater.

Vaz said officials have encouraged elderly and sick residents to consider leaving low-lying areas. The flooding is "absolutely" more of a concern than the snow, Vaz said.

"We can handle six or 12 inches of snow," he said.

SEE ALSO: Mid-Atlantic storm could make history

In Ocean City, just south of Atlantic City, crews have used bulldozers to block beach access points with sand in an effort to slow down any storm surge. A number of vehicles, including repurposed military trucks, were available in case evacuations are needed.

Frank Donato, who heads the Ocean City's emergency management office, said the latest forecasts were calling for as much as an eight-foot tide on Saturday night. While that represents a significant storm surge, it is still two feet short of the level reached during Sandy.

"This is pretty typical for a strong nor'easter," Donato said.

The looming storm prompted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had initially said he would continue to campaign in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination, to reverse course and head back to his state on Friday evening.

Christie made headlines in 2012 when he toured communities devastated by Sandy with President Barack Obama. While he drew praise for his response from many state residents, he also endured criticism from conservatives when he commended Obama's response, just days before the Democratic president was reelected for a second term.

Americans Big Snowstorm

Officials said the years since Sandy had seen infrastructure improvements and hundreds of homes elevated above flood levels, though much of the work remains unfinished.

"Not everyone is raised," said Paul Daley, the emergency management coordinator for the New Jersey shore community Toms River. "Some are still destroyed. Some are still in the design phase."

Daley said crews have been out for days shoring up dunes on the beach using bulldozers.

"We're expecting the worst and hoping for the best," Daley said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has "high-axle vehicles" and "swift water rescue teams" ready to go and has designated 16 potential shelter sites if evacuations are ordered.

Data curated by WeatherDB

On Long Island, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said public works employees had been out for days clearing stormwater drains to ensure maximum capacity.

The county has acquired a lot of equipment since Sandy to respond to flooding, including inflatable rescue boats.

"Our residents post-Hurricane Sandy are more aware of the devastation a storm can bring," he said. "Most of our residents are better prepared should they be asked to leave their home." (Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Diane Craft)

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