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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker