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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.--Stripped of hurricane status but every bit as dangerous, the weather monster known as Sandy roared ashore in New Jersey Monday night after washing away part of the Atlantic City boardwalk, putting the presidential campaign on hold and threatening to cripple Wall Street and the New York subway system with an epic surge of seawater.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of the enormous storm made landfall at 8 p.m. near Atlantic City, after it was reclassified from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.
Sandy had sustained winds of 85 mph. Forecasters say it's no longer a hurricane, but was still a vast and dangerous hybrid storm.
Sandy is combining with a wintry storm from the west and cold air from the Arctic. The superstorm could menace some 50 million people in the nation's most heavily populated corridor, from big East Coast cities to the Great Lakes.
By the time it made landfall, Sandy had already knocked out electricity to more than 1.5 million people and figured to upend life for tens of millions more. It smacked the boarded-up big cities of the Northeast corridor, from Washington and Baltimore to Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
It was expected to converge with two cold-weather systems to form a fearsome superstorm of snow, rain and wind. Forecasters warned of 20-foot waves bashing into the Chicago lakefront and up to 3 feet of snow in West Virginia.
Airlines canceled more than 12,000 flights, disrupting the plans of travelers all over the world, and storm damage was projected at $10 billion to $20 billion, meaning it could prove to be one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.
At least two U.S. deaths were blamed on Sandy: One person died in a storm-related traffic accident in Maryland, and a Pennsylvania man fell from a tree while trimming branches in preparation for the hurricane.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney canceled their campaign appearances at the very height of the race, with just over a week to go before Election Day. The president pledged the government's help and made a direct plea from the White House to those in the storm's path: If told to evacuate, he said, people should do so.
Sandy, which killed 69 people in the Caribbean before making its way up the Atlantic, began to hook left at midday, moving west-northwest at almost 30 mph--faster than forecasters expected.
Pete Wilson, who owns an antiques shop in Cape May, N.J., at the state's southern tip and directly in Sandy's path, said the water was 6 inches above the bottom edge of the door. He had already taken a truckload of antiques out but was certain he would take a big hit.
"I am not too happy," he said. "I am just going to have to wait, and hopefully clean up."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said people were stranded in Atlantic City, which sits on a barrier island and was mostly under water late Monday. He accused the mayor of allowing them to stay there.
With the hurricane fast approaching, Christie warned it was no longer safe for rescuers, and advised people who didn't evacuate the barrier islands to "hunker down" until morning.
"I hope, I pray, that there won't be any loss of life because of it," he said.
The storm's projected path would put New York City and Long Island along its dangerous northeastern wall, facing perhaps 11 feet of water.
New York City officials worried that saltwater would cripple the electrical connections needed to operate the subway and damage the underground power and communications lines in lower Manhattan that are vital to Wall Street.
"We are looking at the highest storm surges ever recorded" in the Northeast, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for Weather Underground, a private forecasting service. "The energy of the storm surge is off the charts, basically."