Hurricane Sandy, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, has made landfall on the U.S. East Coast, putting some 50 million people in the path of torrential rain, high winds and dangerous tidal surges from one of the biggest storms to hit the region in years.
Sandy came ashore on the coast of New Jersey Monday, about 10 kilometers south of Atlantic City, some 200 kilometers south of New York City, bringing storm surges of nearly three meters to lower Manhattan.
Major U.S. cities along the Eastern seaboard are at a standstill, with public transit systems suspended, airports closed and millions of people forced to stay home from work. New York's main utility has cut electricity to lower Manhattan in an effort to stave off damage to the subway system. (Click here to check out US Wind Map.)
Forecasters say the storm is 65 kilometers south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, about 200 kilometers south of New York City, and traveling westward at 44 kilometers per hour.
VOA's Daniela Schrier took her camera to the East Village district in Lower Manhattan Monday night to document the damage from flood waters rushing city streets.
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President Barack Obama canceled election campaign events to monitor the storm from the White House. He urged those in the storm's path to heed warnings about the dangerous nature of it.
"The most important message that I have for the public right now is please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Do not delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given because this is a serious storm and it could potentially have fatal consequences if people haven't acted quickly," he said.
Authorities in nine U.S. states and Washington, D.C. declared states of emergency, as the storm has already knocked out power to 1.5 million people on the U.S. east coast. U.S. federal government offices were closed Monday and will remain so on Tuesday.
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters rescued 15 crew members who abandoned a tall ship after it started to take on water off the coast of the state of North Carolina. The Coast Guard says it is searching for one other crew member who is missing from the HMS Bounty. The replica of an 18th century ship was featured in the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty."
Hurricane Irene slammed into the U.S. east coast last year and did billions of dollars in damage. This following graphic compares Irene and Sandy at similar points in their movement.
Read Michael Lipin's interview with Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
Forecasters said Sandy was expected to merge with a cold weather system, transforming it into a "super storm" before it makes landfall. New York authorities ordered the evacuation of 375,000 people from low-lying parts of the city, whose major stock markets were closed in their first unplanned shutdown since the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks.
Officials said people who refuse to evacuate and later need to be rescued would be putting the lives of emergency workers at risk.
Sandy killed at least 65 people in the Caribbean last week before it moved toward the United States.
NASA video of Hurricane Sandy
Story of Hurricane Sandy told through Instagram