An estimated 6.2 million people in seven states were without power early Tuesday morning across the East and at least 16 deaths had been confirmed as a result of mega storm Sandy. Both President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have canceled campaign appearances. The stock market will stay closed for a second day.
In New York City, the 13-foot storm surge caused flooding and widespread power outages. In the borough of Queens, a fire engulfed at least 15 buildings early Tuesday morning in a flooded zone, local TV reported.
Now designated a "post-tropical cyclone" by the National Hurricane Center, 900-mile Sandy remains deadly, destructive and likely to cripple much of the East coast for several days. It is still packing hurricane-force wind, and forecasters say it remains dangerous to the 50 million people in its path.
Sixteen deaths were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Some of the victims were killed by falling trees. At least one death was blamed on the storm in Canada. Sandy also killed 69 people in the Caribbean.
President Obama and challenger Romney canceled their campaign appearances at the very height of the race, with just over a week to go before Election Day. The president pledged the government's help to those affected.
It was announced that stock trading will be closed in the U.S. for a second day Tuesday - the first time the New York Stock Exchange will be closed for two consecutive days due to weather since 1888, when a blizzard struck the city.
The number of people without power Tuesday is expected to at least triple in the coming days. High winds left a construction crane on top of a high-rise building dangling Monday night over in New York City, where officials closed most major bridges and tunnels Monday night after ordering nearly 400,000 residents to evacuate ahead of storm surge flooding that could ripple the area's transportation, power grid and infrastructure for several days.
By Monday evening, Sandy hurled a record-breaking 13-foot surge of seawater into portions of Manhattan, breaking the previous surge record by at least two feet. On 8th Street, winds ripped the facade off an office building. In the Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan, there was widespread flooding and power outages at some 250,000 residences.
Atlantic City and other coastal cities reported widespread flooding. Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Boston were bracing for a prolonged round of heavy rains, severe winds and widening power outages. Higher elevation regions of West Virginia and Virginia were facing blizzard like conditions and up to three feet of snow.
Craig Fugate, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said FEMA teams were deployed from North Carolina to Maine and as far inland as West Virginia to provide supplies.
Off Cape Hatteras, N.C., the Coast Guard rescued 14 crewmembers from the HMS Bounty, a replica 18th-century sailing ship that sank in the storm. One crew member was found hours afterward but was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The captain was still missing. The ship was built for the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty.
Sandy remains a monster storm as tropical-storm-force winds of up to 85 mph are being felt all the way from southern Maine to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The storm is gaining energy from other weather systems and is combining to create a superstorm with the potential for devastation over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.
"History is being written as an extreme weather event continues to unfold, one which will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States," said meteorologist Stu Ostro of the Weather Channel.
The New York skyline, as seen from the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, remains dim late Monday. Frank Franklin II, AP
"It's a once in a lifetime storm," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Tongue. "I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've never seen anything like this."
In New York City, both the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel that links Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the Holland Tunnel between Manhattan and Jersey City in New Jersey are closed. Gov. Cuomo said he made the decision to close the tunnels because they are prone to flooding during heavy storms.
Reginaldo Machado, 38, of Mamaroneck, N.Y., in Westchester County was at Harbor Island Park taking photographs of the flooding that was swallowing park benches Monday morning. He plans to stay home with his wife and two daughters. "I'm a little bit scared," he said.
Around the eastern seaboard:
- Maryland closed the Bay Bridge, which spans the Chesapeake Bay and connects the state's eastern and western shores. Sandy already has caused heavy damage to a large, iconic ocean pier in the beach resort of Ocean City.
- Virginia officials say all of 37-square-mile Chincoteague Island is underwater, and there is no way off because a causeway to the mainland has been closed. The 3,500 islanders who decided to tough out the storm have been told to keep off the streets.
- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell warned 1 million residents could lose power. Along flood-prone areas of Washington suburb Alexandria, police barricaded portions of some streets closest to the swollen Potomac River. Along low-lying portions of Old Town, restaurants and shops were shuttered. Sandbags were piled at the doors and window-wells.
- Delaware Gov. Jack Markell ordered mandatory evacuations for an estimated 50,000 residents of coastal communities. Collin O'Mara, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said Sandy could unleash record waves and tidal flooding along the coast. "The potential on this is greater than the defenses that we have in most places," O'Mara said.
- Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy warned that storm surges could be the worst the state has seen in almost 75 years and urged residents along the shorelines of several cities and towns to heed evacuation orders.
By Gary Strauss, Kevin McCoy and Carolyn Pesce, USA TODAY
Contributing: Haya El Nasser; Doyle Rice; Kevin Johnson; Kitty Bean Yancey; Charisse Jones; John Bacon; Beth Belton; Oren Dorell; Gary Stoller; William Welch, Jeff Montgomery, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal; Florida Today; WUSA 9; The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News; Associated Press.
The Associated Press