(NEW YORK) — A ferocious superstorm named Sandy barrelled ashore Monday evening, crashing into New Jersey with high winds and a powerful surge of flood waters. It made landfall just south of Atlantic City.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that the landfall will be, “accompanied by life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds.”
The storm has lost a bit of its wallop and was down graded from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone by the time it arrived in New Jersey about 8 p.m., according to NOAA.
But it was still a lethal storm. Five deaths were reported in New York, including three children in Westchester County just north of New York City. One death was recorded in the city and a fifth Ulster County.
In addition, the captain of the sunken tall ship HMS Bounty, Robin Walbridge, 63, was missing. His 15 crew members were plucked to safety by Coast Guard helicopters.
Sandy’s forward motion accelerated throughout the day, as the storm took a left turn towards the East Coast.
Hours before Sandy’s arrival on land, power was being cut to New York City’s financial district and most of Atlantic City was already under several feet of water as waves crashed over the sea wall, spitting up chunks of the famed boardwalk.
Power went out in much of lower Manhattan as water poured over the seawalls. Storm surge combined with the high tide caused a breach the led to flooding on both the east and west sides of the island.
High winds crippled a crane atop a skyscraper, leaving it dangling ominously above the city, tore branches from trees and ripped fixtures from skyscrapers, making walking the city’s darkened streets like a scene from a post-apocalyptic film.
More than 2.5 million power outages had been reported along the East Coast, a figure that is expected to grow as Sandy thrashed her way inland.
Atlantic City officials implemented an emergency curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a travel ban has been put in effect.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had harsh words for Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford who told residents they could shelter in place instead of moving inland.
Christie told residents that it was now too dangerous for crews to go in to rescue people who chose to stay, and they would have to “ride out the storm” and wait until daylight.
“For those people who ignored my warnings, this is what you have to deal with now,” the clearly irked governor said.
President Obama, who left the campaign trail just a week before the election, cautioned that the storm will impact millions of Americans.
“Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying,” he said Monday from the White House briefing room. “When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Do not delay, don’t pause, don’t question the instructions that are being given, because this is a serious storm and could potentially have fatal consequences if people haven’t acted.”
The president abandoned the campaign trail with only days left before the election, canceling events in the key battleground of Florida to return to Washington.
Sanday was packing top winds of 80 mph and waves are approaching 20 feet off the coast of Long Island and have exceeded 30 feet off the coast of the Carolinas, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The force of Sandy, already a menacing storm system, will be multiplied as it combines with several systems to potentially wreak havoc from North Carolina to New England as far west as the Great Lakes.
The Northeast has been paralyzed by the storm. The stock market closed Monday, the first unscheduled, market-wide close since September 2001, according to the NASDAQ website. Also in New York, the city’s public transportation has been completely shutdown for the second time in history. The first time was for last year’s Hurricane Irene.
By morning, waves were already washing over the seawall and into Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, the country’s financial center. The city’s utility, Consolidated Edison, shut down power from Wall Street to the southern tip of Manhattan.
“It’s already at Irene levels and the question is going to be what level the surge will take us to later on this afternoon and this evening when it’s actually high tide,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference earlier Monday.
The turbulent weather has brought much of the region’s transportation to a halt. Paralyzed airports have stranded people all over the country. Over 10,000 flights have been cancelled so far, according to Flight Aware. It is grounding planes throughout Europe since they can’t land at their U.S. destinations.
Roads in many areas are shut down. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell banned vehicles on the state’s roads except for emergency and essential personnel, according to ABC News’ Philadelphia affiliate WPVI.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy ordered road closures for all state highways Monday, according to ABC News’ New York station WABC.
Tens of thousands of people in coastal areas were ordered to evacuate their homes before Hurricane Sandy pounds the eastern third of the United States.
States of emergency were declared from North Carolina to Connecticut. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency as rain and snow fell on the state, with snowfall expected to exceed two feet.
Sandy will meet up with cold front coming from the northwest and a high pressure system from Greenland, fueling it with enough energy to make it more powerful than Hurricane Grace, the so-called “Perfect Storm” in 1991, meteorologists say.
“The size of the storm is going to carve a pretty large swath of bad weather,” Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, said. “This is not just a coastal event.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Debbie Bryce, Idaho State Journal
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com
Idaho State Journal staff
Robert Patten, Nate Eaton, Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com