Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on a flooded street in the Rockaways, New York today.

NEW YORK — Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, battered the nation’s eastern seaboard today, swamping New York City streets with record levels of floodwater, blacking out power to millions of people and bringing transportation to a halt through much of the region.

At least 30 people were reported killed in the United States by Sandy, which dropped just below hurricane status before going ashore in New Jersey yesterday, according to officials and media reports. More than one million people across a dozen states were under orders to evacuate as the massive system continued to plow westward.

One disaster forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured.

The storm also slowed the presidential campaign at a key time ahead of next week’s vote and closed US markets for two days.

Sandy, which was especially imposing because of its wide-raging winds, brought a record surge of almost 14 feet to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.

Water poured into the subway system and tunnels that run under the rivers around Manhattan, raising concerns that the world’s financial capital could be hobbled for days to come.

“Hitting at high tide, the strongest surge and the strongest winds all hit at the worst possible time,” said Jeffrey Tongue, meteorologist for the weather service in Brookhaven, New York.

Hurricane-force winds as high as 90 miles per hour were recorded, he said.

“Hopefully it’s a once-in-a-lifetime storm,” Tongue said.

Large sections of New York City were in darkness without power and transportation in the metropolitan area was at a standstill.

“In 108 years our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota said in a statement. (Reuters)

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