NEW YORK/REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, roared ashore with fierce winds and heavy rain on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, forcing evacuations, shutting down transportation and interrupting the presidential campaign.
Early reports said there was widespread flooding through New York City, in some cases well inland. Police confirmed at least two people were killed by the storm in the city, and deaths were reported as far away as Toronto as well.
CNN reported that at least 11 people were killed in storm-related incidents overnight Monday.
High winds and flooding racked hundreds of miles (km) of Atlantic coastline while heavy snows were forecast farther inland as the center of the storm marched westward.
The storm's wind field stretched from the Canadian border to South Carolina, and from West Virginia to an Atlantic Ocean point about halfway between the United States and Bermuda, easily one of the largest ever seen.
More than 5.5 million customers already were without power by early evening and more than one million people were subject to evacuation orders. Many communities were swamped by flood waters.
The National Hurricane Center said Sandy came ashore as a "post-tropical cyclone," meaning it still packed hurricane-force winds but lost the characteristics of a tropical storm. It had sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (129 kph), well above the threshold for hurricane intensity.
The storm's target area includes big population centers such as New York City, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Trees were downed across the region, untethered pieces of scaffolding rolled down the ghostly streets of New York City, falling debris closed a major bridge in Boston and floodwater inundated side streets in the resort town of Dewey Beach, Delaware, leaving just the tops of mailboxes in view.
In Washington, President Barack Obama appealed to the tens of millions of people in the hurricane's path to follow directions given to them by authorities.
"If the public's not following instructions, that makes it more dangerous for people, and it means that we could have fatalities that could have been avoided," Obama said at the White House, adding that people should expect long power outages and idled transportation systems.
US stock markets were closed for the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and will remain shut on Tuesday. The federal government in Washington was closed and schools were shut up and down the East Coast.
One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured.
Governors up and down the East Coast declared states of emergency. Maryland's Martin O'Malley warned there was no question Sandy would kill people in its way.Water levels rising, causing extensive damage
Sandy made landfall just south of Atlantic City, about 120 miles (193 km) southwest of Manhattan. Casinos in Atlantic City had already shut down.
Television images showed water rising to historic heights in lower Manhattan, raising the possibility of flooding in the city's subway system. The New York Daily News
reported that water was six feet deep outside its offices in lower Manhattan.
The damage was not restricted to the island's southern tip, though, as serious flooding was reported miles north in Greenwich Village and Chelsea.
New York electric utility Con Edison said it expected "record-size outages," with 588,000 customers in the city and nearby Westchester County without power. The company is facing both falling trees knocking down power lines from above and flood waters swamping underground systems from below.
A Reuters witness said 19 Con Edison workers were trapped by rising floodwaters in a power station on the east side of Manhattan.
City officials evacuated neighbors of a 90-story super luxury apartment building under construction after its crane partially collapsed in high winds, prompting fears the entire rig could crash to the ground.
Forecasters said Sandy was a rare, hybrid "super storm" created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm.
Sandy killed 66 people in the Caribbean last week before pounding US coastal areas as it moved north.
Meteorologists say Sandy is a rare, hybrid "super storm" created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm.
The combination of those two storms would have been bad enough, but meteorologists said there was a third storm at play - a system coming down from Canada that would effectively trap the hurricane-nor'easter combo and hold it in place.
While Sandy does not have the intensity of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, it has been gathering strength. An AccuWeather meteorologist said Sandy "is unfolding as the Northeast's Katrina."