Hurricane Sandy pounds Atlantic shores, takes aim at NYC, Philly and Boston

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Ben Giles

Residents in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and other major northeastern cities braced themselves for the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which pummelled the East Coast with high waves, strong rains and winds as high as 90 mph that left roads impassable and neighborhoods flooded.

Subways, buses and trains were shut down from Washington to Boston, and more than 14,000 flights were grounded, leaving travelers stranded up and down the East Coast.

The New York Stock Exchange was closed on Monday and Tuesday, the first time the stock exchange was shuttered on consecutive days due to weather since 1888, when a blizzard crippled New York City.

(Watch storm videos from the D.C. region and the latest videos from around the country)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered 375,000 residents in low-lying areas of the city to evacuate Sunday, when officials also closed all public transit options. The Brooklyn-Battery and Holland tunnels were closed at 2 p.m. Monday as flooding had already matched levels seen during Hurricane Irene.

President Obama declared a state of emergency for Virginia, Maryland, the District, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

(See a photo gallery of storm images and follow the latest updates from the Examiner)

Louis Uccellini, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's environmental protection chief, called an 11-foot storm surge the "worst-case scenario" for New York City -- Hurricane Irene brought only a 4-foot surge that swept over parts of southern Manhattan.

Officials warned the storm surge could flood lower Manhattan, as well as subways and the city's underground electric grid.

High winds caused a construction crane in Manhattan to tip over at a 65-story condominium under construction in midtown, leaving the crane dangling precariously over a city street.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the closure of three major bridges connecting New York City: the Verrazano, Throgs Neck and George Washington bridges closed at 7 p.m. Monday.

Monday afternoon, as the storm approached New Jersey, Bloomberg advised those still left in the city to stay indoors.

"You're sort of left between a rock and a hard place," he said. "You should have left, but it's also getting too late to leave."

Boston officials shut down all subway, bus and commuter rail service at 2 p.m. Monday but had yet to decide whether service would reopen Tuesday morning. Officials in Philadelphia closed transit options as well.

On the New Jersey coast, most of Atlantic City was flooded by Monday afternoon. Officials there are expecting some of the worst damage since the storm of 1962, a nor'easter that pummeled the Atlantic Coast and caused an estimated $100 million in damage to the city.

Residents and visitors to Hatteras Island, N.C., were cut off from traveling on much of the island's main highway, which was covered in sand and salt water. And rough seas sunk a replica tall ship off the coast, leaving two crew members of the HMS Bounty adrift at sea.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members after the ship sank but were still searching for the other two, who wore survival suits designed to keep them afloat for about 15 hours.

Residents on Chincoteague Island in Virginia hunkered down Monday, with no way to leave their homes -- the entire island was under as much as 3 feet of water, and flooding forced the island's lone land exit to close.

An estimated 3,500 people remained behind, with no emergency shelters, as winds worsened late Monday.

"There is no place left for them to go," said Bryan Rush, the island's emergency planning coordinator. "We want people to shelter in place."

Knee-high water flooded some streets in Norfolk, where the worst of the storm had yet to pass the Hampton Roads region. Waves as high as 15 feet were reported in the Atlantic Ocean, and waves 8 feet high were spotted in the Chesapeake Bay.

Dominion Virginia Power reported 9,500 customers in the state without power Monday afternoon and warned the damage would only get worse: As many as 1 million Virginians could lose electricity by the time the storm has passed.

"We're keeping pace with outages right now, but as conditions deteriorate, we won't be able to keep crews out [in the storm]," said Irene Roberts, spokeswoman for Dominion Virginia Power.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner