Residents of New York, New Jersey and other coastal areas braced for another walloping on Wednesday as the first snow flurries of a frigid winter storm began to swirl just a week after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region.
The wintry "nor'easter" storm was set to strike hardest in the most heavily populated region of the US, which had barely begun to rise from last week's wreckage.
While some forecasts showed the storm would come in weaker and farther offshore than first expected, its impact could be magnified by the already-weakened state of the region, and further stall restoration efforts.
Many residents were preparing for the worst rather than be surprised, and airlines cancelled more than 1,000 flights in and out of the New York area ahead of the storm's arrival.
National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Pollina warned: "Prepare for more outages. Stay indoors. Stock up again."
Winds as strong as 60 mph (95 kph) could gust through New York and New Jersey on Wednesday and into Thursday, and there is concern about the ocean barreling past beaches and dunes that were largely washed away by Sandy.
Sky News Correspondent Greg Milam reported from Boston that snow fluries and "brutal cold and wind" had swept in on Wednesday afternoon.
Thousands of people have been warned to clear out of low-lying and coastal areas, but the evacuations were not as widespread as the mandatory ones issued ahead of the hurricane.
New York City's parks and beaches were closed at noon on Wednesday for at least 24 hours.
"We just don't need to send our first responders into the ocean to save someone who is being foolish," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
More than half a million homes and businesses remained without power as temperatures dropped below freezing at night, and finding tens of thousands of people emergency housing - in some cases, for the long term - loomed as a massive challenge.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration counted 95,000 people as eligible for emergency housing assistance.
New York City officials have handed out blankets and urged those without power to go to overnight shelters or daytime warming centres.
Sky News weather producer Joanna Robinson said: "The new storm wouldn't be as severe as Sandy, but even so it could be an intense storm that will hamper recovery work in areas affected by Sandy - for example strong winds could bring down trees that are already unstable."
Farther south, coastal Virginia could also get a storm surge of up to three feet, causing minor flooding on the east side of Chesapeake Bay during high tides on Wednesday evening, said the Weather Underground's Jeff Masters.
Hurricane Sandy claimed at least 113 lives in the US and Canada, and at least 69 in the Caribbean.