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Sandy-battered East Coast braces for cold, new storm

Patrick Semansky / AP

Chuck Clauser looks out from a hole Saturday where a wall once stood at his Cedar Bonnet Island, N.J., home that was damaged by a surge from Sandy

Updated at 12:00 a.m. ET: East Coast residents struggling to pick up the pieces after superstorm Sandy confronted new challenges Sunday: plummeting temperatures and the looming threat of another significant storm.

With the mercury dipping into the 30s overnight and hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island still without electricity six days after the storm, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said "it's going to become increasingly clear" that homes without heat will be uninhabitable as temperatures drop.

That means that residents who have been reluctant to leave their homes will have to, and that they'll need housing.

Yet another storm indicates it will blow through the Northeast, promising between two and three inches of flooding. It will likely be raining on Election Day in Florida, The Weather Channel's Kelly Cass says, but Ohio looks to be clear. The Weather Channel's Kelly Cass reports.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city expects that it will have to find housing for 30,000 to 40,000 people.

The battered region, still beset with stubborn power outages and gasoline shortages, could be hit by a “significant” nor’easter by Thursday, the National Weather Service said Sunday.

At the very least, the service's prediction center stated, there is "a very real possibility of heavy rain and strong winds along the coast from Virginia to Maine." Snow is likely in the interior and some models "do bring some snow all the way to the coast as far south as Virginia," it warned.

"Our suite of computer model guidance continues to advertise a significant East Coast storm that will impact the coastal areas with strong winds and heavy rainfall late Wednesday through Friday," said Tom Niziol of The Weather Channel. "Steps should begin now to prepare for these impacts."

The storm would not be anywhere as destructive as Sandy, but could cause some new erosion and hinder recovery efforts, officials said.

Many who live in the blue-collar fishing town of Highlands, N.J. are still living in temporary shelters after Sandy's floodwaters forced them from their homes. NBC's Michelle Franzen reports.

FEMA and Red Cross officials have ordered more resources ahead of the storm.

New York's Con Edison announced late Sunday night that it had restored service to more than 770,000 customers, or about 80 percent of those who lost electricity during the storm in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx.

In hard-hit New jersey, PSE&G said another 600 workers will be joining the more than 3,000 linemen and tree contractors already working in blacked-out areas.

“Our biggest challenge is in Hoboken, where our stations were submersed in more than 3 feet of water. It took several days for this water to recede. Much of the equipment was corroded by salt water and needs extensive work,” the utility said in a statement.

Gov. Chris Christie and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano toured Hoboken on Sunday and promised residents that what needed to get done would get done.

"Everywhere I’ve traveled, whether it’s a local shelter or a Red Cross shelter, an impromptu roadside table that neighbors have put together to provide food and drinks for people who are working – this is the symbol of New Jersey coming together during a really difficult time," Chrsitie told reporters.

In Highlands, a blue collar fishing town, 1,200 homes were flooded, including the mayor's. The federal government has pledged to pay for housing in the region. Meanwhile in New York, transit returns on line. NBC's Michelle Franzen reports.

Napolitano said federal agencies are looking for apartments and hotel rooms for people displaced by Sandy. "Our goal is to try to get people out of the shelters,'' she said.

In flood-ravaged Belmar, N.J., where the floodwaters had receded but the streets were slippery with foul-smelling mud, hundreds of parishioners in parkas, scarves and boots packed the pews and stood in the aisles for Mass at a chilly Church of St. Rose. Firefighters and police officers sat in the front rows and drew applause.   

Roman Catholic Bishop David O'Connell of the Trenton Diocese said he had no good answer for why God would allow the destruction that Sandy caused. But he assured parishioners: "There's more good, and there's more joy, and there's more happiness in life than there is the opposite. And it will be back. And we will be back."

Meanwhile, fuel supplies continued to rumble toward disaster zones and electricity was slowly returning to darkened neighborhoods. Officials were urging drivers and powerless residents desperate for gas not to panic, saying relief is on the way.

New Jersey voters who were displaced by Sandy now can cast their ballot by email or fax. NBC's Ron Allen reports.

But frustration was evident, as drivers waited in line for hours for a chance at a fill-up, snapping at each other and honking their horns.

At a gas station in Mount Vernon, N.Y., north of New York City, 62 cars were lined up around the block Sunday morning even though it was closed and had no fuel.

"I heard they might be getting a delivery. So I came here and I'm waiting," said the first driver in line, Earl Tuck. He had been there at least two hours by 9 a.m., and there was no delivery truck in sight. But he said he would stick it out.

Bloomberg said that resolving the gas shortages could take days. Across northern New Jersey, Christie imposed odd-even gas rationing that recalled the gasoline crisis of the 1970s.

With Sunday's running of the New York City Marathon canceled, some of those who were planning to run the 26.2-mile race through the city streets instead headed to hard-hit Staten Island to help storm victims. 

Some would-be marathon runners are lending their energy to help those devastated by Sandy. "With our somewhat freakish skill of being able to run 26 miles at once, hopefully we'll be able to get this aid into places that are tougher to get to," a runner said. TODAY's Jenna Wolfe reports.

Thousands of other runners from such countries as Italy, Germany and Spain poured into Central Park to hold impromptu races of their own. A little more than four laps through the park amounted to a marathon.

"A lot of people just want to finish what they've started," said Lance Svendsen, organizer of a group called Run Anyway.

Cuomo on Sunday announced that more than 850 soldiers and 250 vehicles from Army National Guard units in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Massachusetts will begin arriving in New York to assist in Sandy response efforts. He also announced that the state will release $22.8 million to New York City that could be used for repairs to wastewater treatment facilities damaged during the storm.

Though New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the destruction, at its peak, the storm reached 1,000 miles across, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million homes and businesses and canceled nearly 20,000 flights. Damage has been estimated $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Superstorm Sandy made landfall Monday evening on a destructive and deadly path across the Northeast.

Officials have also expressed concern about getting voters displaced by Sandy to polling stations for Tuesday's election. Scores of voting centers were rendered useless by the record surge of seawater in New York and New Jersey. 

New Jersey is allowing voters displaced by Sandy to vote by email. Some voters in New York could be casting their ballots in tents. 

Christie ordered county clerks to open on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate early voters and ensure a "full, fair and transparent open voting process." 

New Jersey authorities also took the uncommon step of declaring that any voter displaced from their home by Sandy would be designated an overseas voter, which allows them to submit an absentee vote by fax or email.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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