A surging Hurricane Sandy rushed towards the East Coast today and is now expected to crash ashore this evening, hours earlier than previously expected.
Sandy's forward motion has accelerated to 28 mph and could make landfall somewhere between Atlantic City and Cape May around 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman from NOAA's National Hurricane Center, told ABC News.
Previous estimates were for it hit Atlantic City about midnight.
Although Sandy was still hours away, 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.
Atlantic City officials have implemented an emergency curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a travel ban has been put in effect -- and the worse of the storm has yet to arrive, according Atlantic County spokeswoman Linda Gilmore.
"The city's basically flooded," said Willie Glass, public safety director, according to the Associated Press. "Most of the city is under water."
Cars in the streets have water past their tires and planks from the famed Atlantic City boardwalk have washed up into the street. Garage doors were crushed and torn, with the structures caving in on themselves.
Large trees have fallen, traffic lights are out, phone lines are down and several water rescues have occurred, according to Gilmore.
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.
The threat from Hurricane Sandy seems to be growing as it nears land with the threat of life-threatening storm surges, gale force winds and rainfall that could cripple transportation and leave millions without power.
President Obama cautioned that the storm will impact millions of Americans.
"Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying," he said today 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.
Though the storm's epicenter is still hours away, the force of the storm is already evident as powerful winds and high seas began lashing the coast this morning.
Tens of thousands of people have lost power and many more outages are expected. Last year, Hurricane Irene left 7 million homes without power in the same area Sandy is expected to batter with wind and rain.
It may have already claimed some victims. The tall ship HMS Bounty, a replica of the three masted ship, went down off the coast of Cape Hatteras, S.C., this morning. Fourteen crew members were rescued and a Coast Guard helicopter is scouring the rough seas for two more crew members.
Hurricane Sandy picked up speed this morning and began its menacing turn towards the U.S. coast as cities all along the shore scrambled to batten down before the super storm hits.
It is packing top winds of 85 mph so far, 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.
Sandy Speeds Towards New Jersey Coast
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 impending storm. The stock market is closed today, 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, said it could be forced to shut off power to the financial district if the area becomes inundated.
"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 today.
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 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 has ordered road closures for all state highways today, according to ABC News' New York station WABC. The closures will be implemented in two phases. Trucks will be prohibited from operating on limited access highways at 11 a.m. and state highways will be closed to all non-emergency vehicles at 1 p.m.
Tens of thousands of people in coastal areas have been 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."
ABC News' Alyssa Newcomb, Russell Goldman, Sydney Lupkin, Genevieve Shaw Brown and Serena Marshall contributed to this report