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New York City took the brunt of mega storm Sandy's wrath Monday night, as a wide swath of the USA's most populous city was hit by a storm surge that caused widespread flooding and power outages.

Sandy was no longer a hurricane by the time it slammed into the south New Jersey coast at about 8 p.m. ET. But now designated a "post-tropical cyclone" by the National Hurricane Center, the 900-mile storm remains deadly, destructive and likely to cripple much of the East coast for several days.

At least eight deaths were reported – the first U.S. casualties after Sandy killed nearly 70 residents in the Caribbean. Among the dead; a 30-year-old Queens, N.Y., man and an unidentified Mansfield, Conn., man, both crushed by falling trees; a motorist killed when his car hydroplaned over high water in Montgomery County, Md., and a 42-year-old woman who died in a sailing accident 90 miles off the North Carolina coast. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that four other state residents had also been killed but did not release details.

More than 3.4 million residents in seven states were without power Monday night - a number expected to at least triple. 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 early 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. The city's 911 system was getting 10,000 calls every half hour - 10 times normal.

Nearly 60 million residents of 23 states were under some sort of emergency watch Monday as Sandy - one of the largest storm systems to ever hit the U.S. – hit landfall. Over 14,000 flights were canceled. Trading on the New York Stock Exchange was canceled through Tuesday, as were classes in scores of school districts.

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.

President Obama urged those in Sandy's path to heed storm warnings from state and local officials and declared emergencies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, authorizing federal relief work to begin well ahead of time. He promised the government would "respond big and respond fast" after the storm hits.

Some governors didn't mince words. Said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, "There will be people who die and are killed in this storm."

"This is not a time to be a show-off. This is not a time to be stupid. This is the time to save yourself and your family," said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Gov. Cuomo urged those who hadn't evacuated to stay indoors. "This is probably the last warning that we're going to be able to give people about getting to a safe place before that coastal surge really hits," he said.

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. Aside from the one fatality, one crew memeber remained missing from the ship, 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.

"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."

Flooding has already impacted some parts of the New York metropolitan area. The city is closing both the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel that links Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the Holland Tunnel between Manhattan and Jersey City in New Jersey. 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.

Sandy's brutal force and massive breadth may leave as many as a record 10 million people in the dark from West Virginia to Maine. It's impact is being felt even in California, where Los Angeles International Airport officials say 200 flights were
cancelled Monday by 10 airlines.

Around the country:

– 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.

– A curfew was in place on Virginia's swamped Chincoteague Island. Officials said the entire 37-square-mile 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 said the state would escape the worst of the storm, but warned 1 million residents could lose power. "Our biggest concern is northern Virginia,'' McDonnell said. 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.

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.

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