Weakened Irene hits New York coast
A weakened but still dangerous Hurricane Irene has crashed into the New Jersey shore with 75mph winds after dumping a foot of rain on North Carolina and Virginia, killing eight people and knocking out power to at least four million homes.
Irene had an enormous wingspan - 500 miles wide - and threatened 65 million people on the US East Coast, estimated as the largest number of Americans ever affected by a single storm.
New York turned eerily quiet as the city braced itself, crippled after the entire transit system was shut down because of weather for the first time in history. All the city's airports were closed, with over 9,000 flights cancelled. Broadway shows, baseball games and other events were all cancelled or postponed.
"The time for evacuation is over. Everyone should now go inside and stay inside," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned.
Forecasters said there was a chance a storm surge on the fringes of Lower Manhattan could send sea water streaming into the maze of underground vaults that hold the city's cables and pipes, knocking out power to thousands and crippling the nation's financial capital.
Officials feared water lapping at Wall Street, Ground Zero and the luxury high-rise apartments of Battery Park City.
Connecticut authorities said a person killed by a fire was apparently the state's first death related to Hurricane Irene.
Governor Dannel Malloy said police believe the fire was caused by wires knocked down at a house in Prospect, south west of Hartford. A spokesman for state police said another person was severely injured.
Across the east coast, the number of power outages that can be blamed on Hurricane Irene has surpassed four million.
More than one million of the homes and businesses are without power in Virginia and North Carolina, which bore the brunt of Irene's initial march. There are also at least one million customers without electricity in New Jersey and New York. Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut also have hundreds of thousands of outages.