Hurricane Sandy brought chaos to America's east coast on Monday night, causing devastating flooding, the shutdown of several major cities and leaving almost 700,000 homes without power.
The gigantic weather system, which threatens to be the largest storm ever to hit the US mainland, strengthened on Monday as it brought 90mph winds and sent a massive storm surge crashing into coastal towns and cities.
Much of Atlantic City in the state of New Jersey was under water well before Sandy even made landfall. Sea water rose over the bonnets of parked cars and the resort's famous boardwalk was repeatedly smashed, with one 80ft stretch destroyed by pounding surf.
On Long Beach Island, to the north, 25ft swells surged into the streets and water spilled through the doors of local businesses.
In New York, a crane dangled precariously from the top of a 90-storey apartment block after partially collapsing in high winds. It was hanging off a high-rise building which is under construction and will include a penthouse costing $90?million (pounds 55?million).
Officials ordered the evacuation of the upper floors of nearby buildings. Trees were blown over on to passing cars in Manhattan. In Maryland, the storm caused significant damage to a large fishing pier in the resort of Ocean City. Governor Martin O'Malley said the pier was "half-gone". He said of the situation: "There will undoubtedly be some deaths."
The chaos caused by the hurricane last night included:
- More than 700,000 customers being without power in seven states, including 92,000 in New Jersey;
- A total of 284,000 homes, worth $87 billion, being in Sandy's path;
- New York City on lock down with 375,000 people evacuated from low-lying areas, with the city fearing a storm surge of as much as 11ft of water;
- There was travel disruption along the east coast with 11,000 flights grounded, stranding passengers from Hong Kong to Europe;
- Around 1,400 members of the National Guard were deployed, with around 60,000 and 140 rescue helicopters, on standby;
- A replica of HMS Bounty, which featured in Hollywood film, sank off North Carolina with two of the 16 crew missing at sea;
- Extra inspectors were dispatched to nuclear power plants in the path of the storm.
Forecasters predicted the storm surge would be worse than Hurricane Irene last year, which caused $15 billion of damage. President Barack Obama on Monday abandoned the campaign trail to head response efforts, and declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Speaking from the White House, he urged people to evacuate to avoid "potentially fatal consequences".
"Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate," Obama said. "Do not delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given."
Obama said he was "not worried" about the impact on the Nov 6 presidential election. "I'm worried about the impact on families and I'm worried about the impact on our first responders," he said. "I'm worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. Right now our number one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives."
As the hurricane closed in on land, it strengthened and stayed on a predicted path toward New York, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Its wind field was 900 miles wide and the storm was moving north-west at 28mph. Hurricane force winds extended an extraordinary 175 miles from its centre.
New York City was on lock down with hundreds of thousands of people evacuated, the subway closed, along with the United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange.
As water began splashing over the seawalls at the southern tip of Manhattan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned: "Leave immediately. Conditions are deteriorating very rapidly, and the window for you getting out safely is closing. This is a storm that can easily kill you."
New York Harbor and the Long Island Sound were expected to see a surge of an 11ft wall of water.
In Maryland, the storm caused significant damage to a large fishing pier in the beach resort of Ocean City. Governor Martin O'Malley said the fishing pier was "half-gone." He added: "There will undoubtedly be some deaths."
Despite the dire warnings, some refused to budge. Jonas Clark, 73, of Manchester Township, New Jersey, right in Sandy's projected path, stood outside a shop sipping a coffee and accused others of getting into a "tizzy." He said: "I've seen a lot of major storms in my time.