Oct. 29, 2012 — -- Ferocious superstorm Sandy barrelled into the East Coast this evening, driving a record storm surge that flooded coastal areas from Delaware to Connecticut, and knocking out power to millions of people from New York City to Ohio.
The center of the storm made landfall just south of Atlantic City, N.J., around 8 p.m., shortly after it had been downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm. But the lowering in status was no reflection of the power the storm still packed.
It brought with it a record 13.88-foot storm surge at the southern tip of Manhattan, breaking the mark of 10.02 feet set in 1960's Hurricane Donna.
Shortly after the storm surge began flooding into lower Manhattan, the lights started going off throughout that part of the city. By 11 p.m., some 250,000 customers were without power, as nearly a quarter of the borough was in the dark.
With the high winds and pounding rains that lashed much of the eastern United States, there were blackouts from downed trees and flooding throughout the region.
There were an estimated 2.5 million customers without power in the New York metropolitan area alone.
And it was also 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. Two people were also reported dead in New Jersey and one in Connecticut.
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 amd 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 video game.
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 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.
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.
Hurricane Sandy: Live Storm Tracker
The Northeast has been paralyzed by the 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, is starting to 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 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.
ABCs of Hurricane Sandy Travel
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.
Sandy Arrives at the Jersey Shore
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.
Hurricane Sandy: Supplies You Should Have
Hurricane Sandy: Full Coverage
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.
7 Devastating Hurricanes: Where Will Sandy Rank?
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