UPDATED 10/02/15 12:14 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Coastal communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy three years ago aren’t taking any chances as two storm systems set their sights on the Tri-State area.

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The region is expected to be hit with drenching rains Thursday and Friday, creating major flooding concerns through the weekend ahead of Hurricane Joaquin’s potential arrival.

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As CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported, Joaquin was a Category 4 hurricane moving southwest at 6 mph with wind speeds of 130 mph near the Bahamas late Thursday afternoon.

It is expected to remain a Category 4 hurricane as it takes a hard turn to the north, and to drop to a Category 3 and Category 2 hurricane as it proceeds.

Forecasts for where Joaquin will make landfall – if at all – have changed since Wednesday. On Wednesday, Joaquin was expected to veer west – likely on Sunday – and likely make landfall somewhere between South Carolina and Chesapeake Bay.

As of just after midnight Friday, CBS2’s Lonnie Quinn reported Joaquin was a Category 4 hurricane — hovering about 20 miles east of Clarence Town in the Bahamas, and moving very slowly to the west. Wind speed was up to 130 mph, and movement was westward at 3 mph.

The models for Joaquin and where it might make landfall – or whether it will even make landfall at all – have been changing by the hour.

On Wednesday evening, most models agreed that Joaquin would make landfall somewhere between Chesapeake Bay and northern South Carolina on Sunday night. On Thursday morning, the projected landfall site was moved to Delaware.

A subsequent forecast Thursday showed the hurricane coming up the East Coast and hitting Long Island as a tropical storm early Tuesday. Later Thursday evening, a new model showed Joaquin likely never making landfall at all, but still placing the Tri-State Area in the cone of concern where effects were expected.

But as of 11 p.m., the National Hurricane Center was projecting a hard right turn out to sea for Joaquin –so that the Tri-State was not even in the cone of concern anymore. But the projections are constantly updated, and this does not mean the Tri-State is out of the woods.

While it looks like New York City will not see a direct hit, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is ready just in case, WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola reported.

“Over 30 city agencies are up and running in this effort, all coordinated by the Office of Emergency Management,” said the mayor.

The process is far more streamlined today than it was during Sandy, officials said.

“We want to have equipment in all of the boroughs,” said Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito. “Last time we put everything in one or two locations, and it took too long to get equipment to some of those areas. Even if we put it in Staten Island, or put it in Queens, or put it in the Bronx, if we need something in that borough, we can get there faster.”

As CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported, the water was churning in New York Harbor Thursday evening as bad weather approached. People in Red Hook, Brooklyn were hoping the storm would be nothing like what happened three years ago.

“The potential of another storm is just the last thing you want,” said Najee Wilson.

Wilson works in the area, which is famous for its century-old warehouses that have been converted into condos, and for artist studios.

“There’s a number 16 behind us, and the storm surge was as high as that 16,” Wilson said.

Fairway, the only supermarket around, has reopened since Sandy floodwaters destroyed the store.

“We’re glad to see that Fairway got rebuilt after the last hurricane,” one woman said.

“We went through a lot in this city three years ago as a result of Superstorm Sandy,” de Blasio said. “This city learned tremendously valuable lessons.”

The mayor is putting those lessons in place. At the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, crews sealed vents above the subway tunnels to prevent potential floodwaters from damaging the tracks and the electrical circuitry.

Esposito said there will be 70 shelters available if needed.

“They are in the process of being supplied right now with the supplies that will be needed,” he said.

De Blasio strongly urged everyone to go to NYC.gov or call 311 to find out your flood zone. He said residents will get regular updates or the city will call home telephone numbers.

Every family needs to be prepared, de Blasio added.

“And I can say that this city is much safer and much more prepared today than where we stood three years ago,” the mayor said.

One lesson that was learned was to deploy equipment now to flood-prone areas –rescue boats, high-clearance vehicles, light towers, and loud speaker cars in case of evacuation, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

On Staten Island, there was an eerie feeling as the waves churned and the wind blew in South Beach, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported. Residents are hoping Joaquin stays away from the island, where many families are still trying to recover from the devastation three years ago.

“It was a disaster here, a lot of tragedy,” said Wojciech. “Last time was bad. Water came like 10 feet away from the house. My neighbors … they lost lives.”

Many said if Joaquin is targeting the area, they’re not taking chances this time and will evacuate.

“Anything that could fly around in my background was bolted down last night,” said Steve. “My wife is preparing to have the go bag ready for the kids and all of our papers and important stuff. The car’s gassed up, and we’re ready to move.”

“If we’re hit with another Sandy-type event, I’m hoping the government is going to buy us out,” he added.

But resident Frank Cardella, 82, said he’s trying not to worry about it.

“I’ve been through a hundred hurricanes through my life,” he said. “I’m not happy about it, but to me, it’s something that comes and goes. I tell everybody, geographically I wouldn’t want to live any place else.”

And along the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, the scars of Supestorm Sandy were still quite visible in many areas, CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported. Some residents were fearing the worst.

“We took it on the chin last time, and you know, we’re a resilient bunch here in Rockaway, but another blast like this and it’s going to be devastating,” said Eddy Pastore of Rockaway Beach.

Many homes were being rebuilt in Belle Harbor, and parts of the boardwalk were still unfinished along Rockaway Beach — all constant reminders of Sandy’s devastation

“I stood on Shorefront Parkway and seen the boardwalk up in the air five feet,” Pastore said. “I went back to my house and seen it picked up and across the Shorefront Parkway. I’m afraid.”

Residents were waiting anxiously three years later.

“I’m hoping that it goes in a different direction, but you know, there’s always a little concern that it might happen again,” said Geraldine Walsh of Belle Harbor.

Barriers have already been brought in at Beach 127th Street and other stretches of the Rockaways for flood protection. The city will also be putting up flood logs — aluminum panels to close off the beach through Beach 149th Street.

That is all in addition to filling in some sand dunes, which had been cut this summer to create beach access.

Residents just hope these preparations are enough.

“I’m preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, but with a situation like this, I can’t see the best happening,” Pastore said. “Even in a nor’easter, we’re going to have problems here.”

The preparations are in addition to the protective measures taken since Sandy — which include an elevated boardwalk, six miles of planted dunes, sand replenishment, and concrete retaining wall to keep the beach’s sand in place.

Meanwhile, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is advising residents to prepare while the weather is favorable and to fill up their gas tanks, charge their phones and get an emergency kit ready.

“It could happen. We don’t want it to happen, we hope it goes out, but be prepared. Get ready,” Mangano said.

He advises that people should fill up cars and generators with gas; charge phones; stock up on batteries, food and water; have a go kit ready; and a plan to shelter with friends and family.

If evacuations are ordered, officials ask for full compliance.

“If you stay in place in an area that’s anticipated to be flooded, and then you require a rescue, and you had the opportunity to leave before that flooding, you’ve now put that first responder in harm’s way,” Mangano said.

Since Sandy, the county has purchased more generators, dozens of portable traffic lights, 30 high-axle emergency vehicles and low draft boats in case of a hurricane, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.

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“Sandy showed us many vulnerabilities that we have here,” Mangano said.

There is also a free app called Nassau Now to give evacuation critical information.

Meanwhile, as CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, berms were bulldozed into position Thursday by the City of Long Beach, which was underwater three years ago during Sandy. Nassau County has been recovering from that disaster for three years, and now, they are preparing for what could be another one.

“I can’t imagine we will have to go through this again,” said Tracy Meehan.

Meehan doesn’t want to think about the worst case scenario. After rebuilding her Long Beach home destroyed by Sandy — she was wishing Joaquin away.

“If it happened again, I think we’re done,” she said.

On a barrier island that was submerged and buried in sand during Sandy, there was lots of new worry.

“You’ve got the ocean here, and you’ve got the bay here,” one man said. “If they connect, it’s trouble.”

But there was also hope that Sandy was different.

“The moon was aligned; the tides were high that day,” another man pointed out.

And if it gets the brunt of the hurricane, Long Beach is in much better shape now than when Superstorm Sandy hit three years ago, City Councilman Anthony Eramo said. During the 2012 storm, a tidal surge buried streets under tons of sands and wiped out hundreds of homes.

“The city is doing what we can,” Eramo told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria. “Closing up the areas of the boardwalk both on New York and on the east side, putting berms up to prevent any sort of flooding, and we’ll be watching it closely.”

Still, nerves were high as residents watched crews preparing for this next possible hit.

“It is hitting close to home,” resident Ted Clark said. “Last time our cars floated away. This time we’ll see.”

“I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as Sandy was,” said Tania Rios.

Residents said they’re keeping a close eye on the radar and will plan accordingly over the next few days.

“I’m going to go shopping today, buy some groceries and have them in the house,” Bernadette Rochelle said.

“I’ll probably take more precautions this time than last time,” Clark said, who is considering going to Pennsylvania or taking a long weekend somewhere else.

But resident Tom Parker, whose house was destroyed in Sandy, said he’s not worried.

“There’s nothing I can do about it anyway,” Parker said. “I’ll never pack another sandbag, I’ll tell you right now; that goes without saying. What a waste of time that was.”

The next hurricane preparedness meeting will be at Long Beach City Hall on Oct. 5.

In Suffolk County on Thursday, boats were being readied at marinas along both the North and South shores, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported. Smallcraft in Port Jefferson Harbor were being removed or secured, while tugs were pushing barges away from the ferry.

“Boats can smashed against the pilings,” said charter boat owner Capt. James Peterson.
“We‘re straightening things up off the boat; putting out storm lines; just taking precautions.”

Islip homeowner Kisha Becker said she was most concerned about “my family; absolutely. Look, we really need to make sure we are all prepared.”

And Clarie Potter, 4, was ready with her green umbrella.

“We have four kids,” said her father, Jeff Potter, “and we always try to be prepared for anything anyway; you know, we always have food in the house.”

Local leaders said there is no such thing as an overreaction. Merchants agreed.

“We worry if the waters are high, that all our music will be destroyed and everything, so we try to push it back to a further room,” said performing arts studio owner Deborah Livering.

Surrounded by a dozen surplus Humvees and other high-water rescue trucks, Suffolk County officials said despite the uncertainty of Joaquin, they are taking advantage of lessons learned from Sandy – better coordination and communication.

“I’ve directed the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services to open our emergency operations center, as of yesterday,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We will be going with a 24-hour operation.”

Bellone advised residents to be prepared in case the hurricane hits.

“Right now, we’re essentially in a prepare and pray mode,” he told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.

PSEG Long Island also has 729 additional crews secured to help in restoration efforts if needed.

“I’m hoping not to have a repeat of losing those trees; losing more trees; not being able to get out of my driveway,” said Adam Heller of Port Jefferson.

Although it’s too soon to know whether the hurricane will have a direct impact on the state, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie cautioned there will definitely be moderate to major flooding in southern New Jersey on Friday and Saturday. Up to 6 inches of rainfall is expected over those two days.

In Belmar, bulldozers have been set up to create sand berms on the beach, and Lake Como was pumped Wednesday afternoon.

“By lowering this lake, we help mitigate against flooding into all the homes that surround it, so we have hundreds of families that are right now scared,” Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from Sandy and we have a lot of resources now we never had before.”

In Hoboken, “no parking” signs have been posted on flood-prone streets, and storm drains had been cleared of debris.

Flooding could last through Tuesday, especially in the western section of the city which sees flooding in average storms, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

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“If that heavy rain hits at high tide then we could get flooding; we’ve already had some flooding the last couple of days so we’re preparing for that,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer said. “We’re moving all of our vehicles, we’ve prepositioned barricades and closing off the roads.”

Zimmer said more decisions will be made in the next 48 hours.

In Jersey City, Mayor Steven Fulop said workers have cleaned out catch basins to prevent flooding and emergency reponse volunteers and shelters are ready.

“We want to be cautious and not alarmist,” Fulop said.

Back along the Shore in Mantoloking, a barrier island barely separating Barnegat Bay from the ocean, the memories of Superstorm Sandy are still very fresh and very painful, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

“I think everybody’s terrified, I really do,” said Diane Boyd, who was running errands ahead of the storm. “I take it really seriously. I spent the whole day packing things up and I’m inland.”

Mantoloking is still awaiting beach replenishment, and Chris Kneedling, with the Office of Emergency Management, said flooding is inevitable.

“People are just going ‘Oh no, here we go, please not again,'” he siad. “It’s too soon to deal with this, but it’s the reality.

A reality for a town that was nearly wiped off the map just three years ago.

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