Superstorm Sandy has slammed into the New Jersey coastline and hurled a record-breaking 13ft surge of seawater at New York City on Monday, roaring ashore after washing away part of the Atlantic City boardwalk and putting the presidential campaign on hold.
Just before its centre reached land, the storm was stripped of hurricane status, but the distinction was purely technical, based on its shape and internal temperature. It still packed hurricane-force winds, and forecasters were careful to say it remained every bit as dangerous to the 50 million people in its path.
The National Hurricane Centre announced at 8pm EDT (0000 GMT) that Sandy had come ashore near Atlantic City. The sea surged a record of nearly 13 feet at the foot of Manhattan.
In an attempt to lessen damage from the storm, New York City's main utility cut power to about 6,500 customers in lower Manhattan. Authorities were worried that seawater would seep into the New York subway and cripple it, along with the electrical and communications systems that are vital to the nation's financial centre.
As it closed in, Sandy knocked out electricity to more than 1.5 million people and looked et to disrupt life for tens of millions more. It smacked the boarded-up big cities of the North East corridor, from Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York and Boston, with stinging rain and gusts of more than 85mph.
As it made its way towards land, it converged with a cold-weather system that turned into a fearsome superstorm, a monstrous hybrid consisting not only of rain and high wind but of snow. Forecasters warned of 20ft waves bashing into the Chicago lakefront and up to three feet of snow in West Virginia.
From Washington to Boston, subways, buses, trains and schools were shut down and more than 7,000 flights grounded across the region of 50 million people. Hundreds of thousands of people were under orders to move to higher ground to await the storm's fury.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney suspended their campaigning with just over a week to go before Election Day. At the White House, Mr Obama made a direct appeal to those in harm's way: "Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate. Don't delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given, because this is a powerful storm."
The storm washed away a section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk in New Jersey. Water was splashing over the seawalls at the southern tip of Manhattan. A construction crane atop a luxury high-rise in midtown Manhattan collapsed in high winds and dangled precariously. Residents in surrounding buildings were ordered to move to lower floors and the streets below were cleared, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The major American stock exchanges closed for the day, the first unplanned shutdown since the September 11 attacks in 2001. Wall Street expected to remain closed on Tuesday. The United Nations cancelled all meetings at its New York headquarters.