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
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test