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As nor’easter drenches the East Coast, thousands have lost power and high winds threaten more outages

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By Monica Garrett, Jason Hanna and Dave Hennen, CNN

Thousands in New England are waking up in the dark Wednesday and strong winds are expected to continue a day after a nor’easter’s heavy rains flooded some areas in the Northeast.

More than 275,000 customers were without electricity Wednesday morning in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, according to PowerOutage.US.

“With the ground saturated and full of leaves, the power outages from downed trees are the concern through Wednesday,” CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy said.

The National Weather Service in Boston is urging those living along the Massachusetts coast to remain indoors and stay away from windows as wind gusts are expected to reach up to 85 mph through 7 a.m.

Eastern Massachusetts could see up to two additional inches of rain in the next 36 hours, Guy said early Wednesday. He added that winds are expected to subside by Wednesday night.

The storm, which was expected to deliver about 2 to 6 inches of rain in short order over several states, led the governors of New Jersey and New York to declare states of emergency in advance, just weeks after Hurricane Ida left severe flooding there in early September.

Up to 5 inches of rain had fallen in parts of New Jersey by 11 a.m. ET, flooding some roads, creeks and streams, the National Weather Service said.

New York and New Jersey got some respite from heavy rain during the afternoon, but another band of precipitation was rotating through and rain was expected to increase in the evening hours. The latest rainfall shouldn’t be nearly as heavy as earlier totals, CNN Meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

The weather service office in New York City said Central Park had recorded 2.7 inches by 1 p.m. and more than 2.6 inches had fallen in Islip on Long Island.

In New Jersey’s Union Beach south of New York City, floodwaters trapped some vehicles, and emergency workers made more than a dozen water rescues late Monday into early Tuesday, Union Beach Police Chief Michael Woodrow said. No injuries there were reported.

Gov. Phil Murphy delayed the opening of state government offices until 11 a.m. to allow workers ample time to arrive.

“If you’re out on our roads and come across a flooded section, please just turn around — don’t go ahead. Sadly, we lost too many people in Ida who went ahead,” Murphy told reporters Tuesday morning.

LIVE UPDATES: Nor’easter, East Coast, California

A flash flood emergency was issued Tuesday afternoon for two towns in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Moravia and Locke, with record flooding expected on the southern end of Owasco Lake, the National Weather Service in Binghamton said.

The gauge at Moravia reached 10.56 feet and was expected to crest near 11 feet Tuesday evening before receding, the weather service said. It urged people to move immediately to higher ground.

Flooding also was reported on roads in New York’s Delaware, Otsego and Sullivan counties, the weather service said.

Flash flood warnings and watches were in effect Tuesday for other parts of New York along with southern New England, with rain expected into Tuesday evening or early Wednesday. There were also flash flood warnings in northeast Pennsylvania, southern Connecticut and northeast New Jersey.

Extreme winds expected to knock out power

Damaging winds are expected to blow down trees and power lines in some areas. A high wind warning was in place for parts of Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The strongest winds in New York were expected to be Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning.

Winds of 60 mph were recorded in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Tuesday morning. New York’s Suffolk County saw winds reach 52 mph.

The system still was strengthening early Tuesday afternoon, CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said.

“The winds are going to get stronger (and) there’s going to be more rainfall for some people,” Sater said around 2 p.m. ET.

In Suffolk County, rain was strong enough at times to obscure visibility for drivers in the morning, and more than 20 vehicle crashes happened there in the day’s first 11 hours, county Executive Steven Bellone said.

Power outages could accumulate later in the day as winds pick up, Bellone said.

Eversource Energy, New England’s largest energy provider, warned that tens of thousands of customers could lose power in the storm, as early season nor’easters present a greater risk to power lines because the leaves are still on the trees.

“When trees still have most of their leaves, the risk of tree-caused outages with a nor’easter is much higher,” according to Sean Redding, an Eversource vegetation management official. “Weighed down by the rain, the leaves act like a sail, causing the tree to bend with the wind.”

In Boston, winds are expected to increase as Tuesday progresses, with the strongest winds overnight Tuesday into Wednesday. Conditions there will slowly improve late Wednesday morning, with some impacts lasting into the evening.

Generally in parts of the Northeast, “there will be winds onshore; there will be waves onshore — 8 to 12 feet tall,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Tuesday morning.

What is a nor’easter?

A nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast with winds typically coming from the northeast, according to the National Weather Service. The storms can occur at any time of year but are most common between September and April.

In winter, temperatures associated with a nor’easter can be much more extreme than in the fall, which can lead to more intense storms and snow. The storms can cause beach erosion and rough ocean conditions, with winds of 58 mph or more.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the New York City subway and other transit lines, was expecting several inches of rain over 12 hours, but nothing like Hurricane Ida, which caused severe flooding in the region in early September.

“At no point do we expect to see the type of intense rainfall over a very short term that we had during Hurricane Ida,” MTA’s acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, noting the city saw more than 3.5 inches in one hour during Ida.

“But, we are prepared for whatever comes,” Lieber added.

The biggest issue and constraint the MTA faces is the city sewers, which can be overwhelmed as they were during Ida, Lieber said, but they didn’t expect it to be an issue during the storm.

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CNN’s Laura Ly, Steve Almasy, Brandon Miller, Judson Jones, Sahar Akbarzai, Joe Sutton and Alex Harring contributed to this report.

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