NEW YORK CITY (USA TODAY ) Much of New York City and the East coast hunkered down as mega storm Sandy hit landfall, packing high winds, torrential rains and storm surges that reached record levels.
Sandy hit south New Jersey near Atlantic City at 8 p.m. ET, about an hour after the National Hurricane Center reported it is no
longer a hurricane and had transitioned into what it calls a
"post-tropical cyclone." Yet the massive storm's destructive power remains intense.
Sandy claimed its first U.S. storm-related death in New
York City after a 30-year-old man at his 166th Street
home in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens died after a falling tree crushed him, local police said.
The nation's largest city was taking the early brunt of Sandy's brute force, and closed most major bridges and tunnels Monday night after ordering nearly 400,000 residents to evacuate ahead of storm surge flooding that could ripple the area's transportation, power grid and infrastructure for several days. By early Monday evening, Sandy hurled a record-breaking 13-foot surge of seawater into New York City, breaking the previous surge record by two feet. On 8th Street, winds ripped the facade off an office building. In the Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan, there was widespread flooding and power was out
Nearly 60 million residents of 23 states were under some sort of emergency watch Monday as Sandy - one of the largest storm systems to ever hit the U.S. - was poised to hit the New Jersey coast. Over 14,000 flights were canceled. Trading on the New York Stock Exchange was canceled through Tuesday, as were classes in scores of school districts.
New York City police, fire department and other emergency personnel are evacuating residents of lower floors in other buildings near the partial crane collapse on a West 57th Street skyscraper. They said the evacuations were being ordered as a precaution in case the broken crane boom falls to the ground. The fire department issued a fourth alarm for the collapse Monday night, sending more personnel and pieces of equipment to the scene.
Facing a direct hit from Sandy Monday night, Atlantic City and other coastal cities were already under water and some 1 million residents were without electricity. Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Boston were bracing for a prolonged round of heavy rains, severe winds and widening power outages. Higher elevation regions of West Virginia and Virginia were facing blizzard like conditions and up to three feet of snow.
Craig Fugate, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA teams were deployed from North Carolina to Maine and as far inland as West Virginia to provide supplies.
Nearly 70 people in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas were killed in Sandy's wake. Although no U.S. deaths had been reported, President Obama said Sandy could have "fatal consequences" and urged those in Sandy's path to heed storm warnings.
Some governors didn't mince words. Said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; "There will be people who die and are killed in this storm."
"This is not a time to be a show-off. This is not a time to be stupid. This is the time to save yourself and your family," said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged those who hadn't evacuated to stay indoors. "This is probably the last warning that we're going to be able to give people about getting to a safe place before that coastal surge really hits," he said.
Off Cape Hatteras, N.C., the Coast Guard rescued 14 crewmembers from the HMS Bounty, a replica 18th-century sailing ship that sank in the storm. One crew remained missing from the ship, built for the 1962 film Mutiny on the
Sandy remains a monster storm as tropical-storm-force winds of up to 85 mph are being felt all the way from southern Maine to the Outer Banks of North Carolina