60 million people brace for disaster - but Hurricane Sandy is reclassified as a Post-Tropical Cyclone as it makes landfall

As Cyclone Sandy strikes the east coast, Nikhil Kumar reports from New York and Rupert Cornwell from Washington

Howling winds, furious tides and a series of torrential downpours announced the arrival of Cyclone Sandy on the American east coast last night, an unwelcome guest ahead of Halloween that has forced mass evacuations across what is the country’s most densely populated region.

Click here for Tuesday latest

The storm, a sprawling weather-monster that has led to declarations of emergency in more than half a dozen northeastern states, crashed ashore near Atlantic City in southern New Jersey at around 8pm, according to the National Hurricane Center. With  wind speeds easing slightly to 80 mph as it made the transition to land, the weather system was also reclassified as a Post-Tropical Cyclone.

Earlier on Monday, what was then Hurricane Sandy was producing maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, up from 75 mph on Sunday night, as it swept across the Atlantic.

As it approached land last night, police in midtown Manhattan rushed to cordon off streets around a partially-completed skyscraper after sharp winds damaged a crane and left it dangling perilously from a height of several dozen stories above ground.

The incident at 157 West 57th Street, the site of what is poised to be the tallest residential tower on the island, triggered fresh evacuations in the nearby area, with fears that the crane could come crashing down as the weather deteriorated. The facade of another building in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood was also reported to have been damaged last night.

Sandy had begun to makes it presence felt hours earlier, sparking flooding in Atlantic City and in Ocean City, Maryland, with swelling waters washing away parts of the latter’s famous pier.

Coastguards, meanwhile, rescued 14 of the 16 crew of the tall ship HMS Bounty after they were forced to abandon the replica vessel in heavy seas about 90 miles of the North Carolina coast.

Tens of millions of people across Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and other north-eastern states were told to hunker down as forecasters also predicted heavy snow across the region. They said a major risk was from the record-breaking span of the storm, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 175 miles from its centre in the afternoon, while tropical storm-force winds extended up to 485 miles.

President Barack Obama, breaking away from the election campaign and assuming the role of commander-in-chief, warned that “millions of people are going to be affected”.

“The most important message I have for the public right now is please listen to what your state and local officials are saying,” he added. “When they tell you to evacuate, evacuate.”

Bracing for the impact, officials had by yesterday morning ordered the evacuation of 375,000 people in New York City, 50,000 in Delaware and 30,000 in Atlantic City. Nearly 9,000 flights were cancelled and power cuts were reported in New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York state. At least nine states, along with the District of Columbia, declared emergencies.

Martin O’Malley, the Governor of Maryland, sounded a grim warning yesterday, saying: “The days ahead are going to be difficult. There will be people who die and are killed in this storm.”

Millions of pupils were given a day off as schools closed. In Washington DC, which was lashed by heavy rain and sharp winds, the entire metro system was shut down.

Earlier, New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced the shutdown of the country’s biggest urban transportation system. All 468 of the city’s subway stations began closing at 7pm on Sunday – for the second time in just over a year, after they were temporarily closed ahead of Hurricane Irene.

He also ordered a mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas around the city. He said 16,000 beds had been set up in emergency shelters at 76 schools across the city. However, only 3,000 people spent Sunday night in shelters.

“Conditions are deteriorating very rapidly and the window for getting out safely is closing,” Mr Bloomberg added. “It’s getting too late to leave.” New Yorkers appeared to heed his warning, and the streets of lower Manhattan were deserted yesterday, Sandbags lined the approaches to the New York Stock Exchange in Wall Street, which will remain out of out of action today.

Further north, in Manhattan’s usually bustling West Village neighbourhood, shops and restaurants had their shutters down. Barriers had been put up at the entrance to Washington Square, and Sullivan Street was mostly empty, save for the odd passing dog-walker or jogger.

It was no different in the capital. With the federal government, all public transport and many businesses shut on what would otherwise be the first day of the working week, Washington resembled a ghost town.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month