Hurricane Sandy has banged into the East Coast around 6.30pm EST as millions of Americans were warned that the worst was still to come tonight.
Hurricane Sandy had laid waste to large parts of the coast throughout the day, leaving more than two million without light in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia while whole cities have been flooded and billions of dollars of damage has expected.
But as darkness fell, Sandy was about to make landfall at Cape May, New Jersey. Winds rose up to 90mph with fresh warnings that the 'most severe part of the storm is now beginning'.
Storm surges of more than 12ft have already been recorded in Long Island, with waters rising quickly in Lower Manhattan as high wave approaches. Howling winds of 100mph have been reported on the RFK Bridge in upper Manhattan as gales were expected to last for hours.
In New York Mayor Bloomberg told citizens at a 6pm press conference that: 'The most severe part of the storm is now beginning' and warned people that the time for evacuation was now over and to stay indoors, with the peak surge in the city's harbor lasting until 10.30pm (EST).
In Atlantic City officials were trying to rescue around 500 people trapped in their homes during the direct hit. Most of the city's 40,000 residents had evacuated as directed.
In New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told a press conference at 5.30pm (EST) that the hurricane had doubled its speed, meaning it should make landfall several hours ahead of schedule at around 7pm.
CBS reported that wind gusts of 38 mph have been felt in New York City, while winds of 41 mph have rattled Boston.
Across Norfolk, Virginia, residents were knee-deep in floodwaters as they travelled to work or scrambled to stock up on last-minute groceries. In the southeast of the state, tides are expected to run between five and eight feet above normal.
In Boone, North Carolina, snow began falling at 8am; the Appalachian mountain town is expected to suffer a miserable few days with snow, rain and temperatures struggling to get out of the 30s. Up to eight inches of snow is expected but, in places of higher elevation, there may be as many as 12, while in West Virginia, 2 to 3 feet of snow could fall.
In Oak Orchard, Delaware, rescue efforts by the National Guard and local authorities were already underway for residents who had failed to heed the mandatory evacuation issued over the weekend.
In Ocean City, New Jersey, residents snapped photos of the extreme flooding, as officials added: 'The ocean has met the bay. We have never seen anything like this.' Off the coast of North Carolina, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew members who abandoned the replica ship HMS Bounty, using helicopters to lift them from life rafts. The Coast Guard continued to search for the two missing crew members about 160 miles from the storm. The hurricane could cause a total of $20 billion in economic damage and losses to homes, travellers and retailers forced to close stores.