Hurricane Irene has torn into New York City Sunday, hammering Manhattan's skyscrapers with fierce winds and threatening to flood the financial district.
Ten fatalities have been reported so far, with the youngest victim being an 11-year-old boy in Virginia.
The first hurricane to hit the Big Apple in nearly 30 years swept into the city with heavy rain, lightning storms and tornado alerts in tow. Wind strength has been growing steadily, and was forecast to cross the 80km/h mark by mid day and peak at about 130km/h.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent most of the weekend urging city residents who could to evacuate, but come Sunday, he announced that the time for evacuation has ended and urged city residents to stay indoors and adhere to security forces instructions.
US President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico. According to the White House, the declaration frees federal funds to help in the recovery effort.
Hurricane Irene knocked out power to 1.8 million homes and businesses on the East Coast, disrupting oil refineries and forcing nuclear plants to reduce power as it barrels through New York City.
Closed over the weather for the first time. The New York subway (Photo: AP)
As the Southeast made small progress toward restoring power as Irene spun northward, blackouts in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey jumped.
Local forecasters said the path of Irene was shifting westward, raising the prospect of 10-foot storm surges.
The US Coast Guard closed the Port of Philadelphia, an oil hub, and restricted some vessel traffic at the larger hub of New York Harbor, which stayed open.
Authorities have also warned of possible spillover from a Maryland dam: "Due to the extreme rain event caused by Hurricane Irene, a notification is being issued for a potential Dam Failure situation that may cause significant flooding that could threaten people, homes and roads downstream from the St. Mary's Lake Dam," local authorities said in a statement.
AP, Reuters, AFP and Yitzhak Benhorin in Washington contributed to this report
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