By MIKE O'BRIEN and LOUISE BOYLE
Deserted: People wait for a cab at Times Square in New York as rains fall before Hurricane Irene hits
Hurricane Irene battered New York in the early hours of Sunday morning as heavy rain caused fears of severe flooding and reduced the city to a ghost town.
Around 200,000 New Yorkers were now without power, according to local news stations, most of them on Staten Island, Queens and the outer suburbs.
Words of warning: A pedestrian takes a risk as roads are closed and barricades raised in Lower Manhattan with Hurricane Irene expected to bear down on the city today
Forecasters said a storm surge on the fringes of Lower Manhattan could send seawater into the maze of underground vaults that hold the city's cables and pipes, knocking out power to thousands and crippling Wall Street, Ground Zero and the luxury high-rise apartments of Battery Park City. Tornadoes were also a possibility.
Splish splash: A taxi speeds by on 42nd Street at Times Square in New York as rains fall before Hurricane Irene hits
The destructive power of Hurricane Irene has so far killed ten people, including two children. An 11-year-old boy in Virginia was killed when a tree fell through the roof of his house and a child died in a car crash at an intersection in North Carolina where traffic lights were out.
More than two million people from South Carolina to Maryland were without power as the giant 580-mile-wide storm brought widespread flooding and high winds that knocked down power lines.
Slim pickings: A shopper makes the most of the cereals on offer as milk and bread supplies ran out in New York stores
Nearly half a million homes were without power in New Jersey with utilities companies saying it could take days to restore service. New York, New Jersey and Long Island were on heightened alert for tornadoes. The Passaic River in New Jersey was at risk of bursting its banks if heavy rainfall continues.
No way home: Travellers sleep at Penn Station, New York as trains were cancelled due to hurricane warnings all along the American East Coast
A nuclear reactor shut down in Maryland after a transformer was reportedly damaged by flying debris. Constellation Energy Nuclear Group described it as a low-level emergency and said the plant remained stable. Communications director Mark Sullivan said here was no threat to employees or residents.
City officials warned that if Irene stayed on track, it could bring gusts of 85 mph overnight that could shatter skyscraper windows.
Unbelievable sight: Two men push a cart through a normally bustling Grand Central Terminal
Flood waters forced a storm shelter to be evacuated in Hoboken which lies across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
'Hoboken faces the worst case scenario. Flooding has begun. Moving Wallace Shelter residents to state shelter in east Rutherford,' Mayor Dawn Zimmer wrote on Twitter.
All subway service was suspended because of the threat of flooding in the tunnels - the first time the nation's biggest transit system has shut down because of a natural disaster. Sandbags and tarps were placed on or around subway grates.
Completely soaked: A Hasidic Jew makes his way home as heavy rain falls in Brooklyn, New York, late Saturday night
Authorities shut down the Port of New York and the Port for Long Island Sound. The Palisades Interstate Parkway entrance to the George Washington Bridge was also closed due to the worst weather conditions to threaten the city since the 1980s.
In his final address on Saturday night at 10.30pm, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a tornado warning for New York and said that the time for evacuation was over. He advised people to stay indoors and make preparations.
Warning: Despite the hurricane being downgraded to a Category 1 storm, it is still expected to have locally extreme impacts
Mayor Bloomberg warned New York's eight million residents that a storm surge in the city at 8am could lead to widespread blackouts.
He said: 'The edge of the hurricane has finally got upon us. No matter how tempting it is to say ''I was outside during the storm'' ... stay inside. We'd like to get through this with as minimal damage to human beings as possible, and after that property, but it's human lives we are really worried about.'
Late night grocery run: A man braves torrential rain to get some supplies in Brooklyn on Saturday night
The Mayor warned New Yorkers that Irene was a life-threatening storm and urged them to stay indoors to avoid flying debris, flooding or the risk of being electrocuted by downed power lines.
'It is dangerous out there,' he said, but added: 'New York is the greatest city in the world and we will weather this storm.'
No snarl ups here: The normally crowded entrance to the Holland Tunnel in Manhattan
Times Square, often called the crossroads of the world, was almost deserted as shops boarded up windows and put sandbags outside entrances.
'We just came to see how few people are in Times Square and then we're going back,' said Cheryl Gibson, who was on holiday in the city.
Construction work came to a standstill and workers at the World Trade Centre site dismantled a crane and secured equipment. Mayor Bloomberg said there would be no effect on the opening of the September 11 Memorial to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Streets of fear: The entrance to the Midtown Tunnel West Bound
Power company Con Edison brought in hundreds of extra utility workers from around the country. While Lower Manhattan is protected by a seawall and a network of pumps, Con Ed vice president John Mucci said they stood ready to turn off the power to about 6,500 customers in the event of severe flooding. Mr Mucci said it could take up to three days to restore the power if the cables became drenched in saltwater.
A spokesman for the New York Stock Exchange said it was prepared for the worst with its own backup generators.
Some 370,000 city residents were ordered to leave their homes in low-lying areas in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. However many were unwilling to evacuate. Nicholas Vigliotti, 24, an auditor who lives in a high-rise building along the Brooklyn waterfront, said he saw no point.
Lights are on but no one's there: A spooky view inside the Midtown Tunnel West Bound
'Even if there was a flood, I live on the fifth floor,' he said.
Hours earlier, the normally bustling streets had emptied out and the rumble of the subways came to a stop.
Many residents seemed to be taking it in their stride, staying off the streets but planning hurricane get-togethers and hot tub parties.
The lone runner: A man heads north on the Hudson River Greenway ahead of the arrival of Irene in Lower Manhattan
'We already have the wine and beer, and now we're getting the vodka,' said Martin Murphy, a video artist who was shopping at a liquor store near Central Park with his girlfriend. 'If it lasts, we have dozens of movies ready, and we'll play charades and we're going to make cards that say, "We survived Irene''.
A hurricane warning was issued for the city Friday afternoon, the first since Gloria in September 1985. That storm blew ashore on Long Island with winds of 85 mph and caused millions of dollars in damage, along with one death in New York.
Getting out of the rain: New York National Guard officers run towards the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory where they are staying
The area's three major airports - LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty - closed at noon to arriving flights. Departing flights were to be shut down by 10pm. Subway trains began grinding to a halt at noon.
The transit system won't reopen until at least Monday, after pumps remove water from flooded stations. The subways routinely flood during even ordinary storms and have to be pumped out.
A sitting target awaits: The skyscrapers of New York underneath stormy skies on Saturday evening as the rains come ahead of the winds
Boilers and elevators were shut down in public housing in evacuation areas to encourage tenants to leave and to prevent people from getting stuck in elevators if the power went out.
Some hotels were shutting off their elevators and air conditioners. Others had generators ready to go.
Pedestrians walk past sandbags used to control possible floods at downtown Manhattan
Dozens of buses arrived at the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league ballpark in Coney Island to help residents get out. Nursing homes and hospitals were emptied.
At a shelter set up at a high school in the Long Island town of Brentwood, Alexander Ho calmly ate a sandwich in the cafeteria. Ho left his first-floor apartment in East Islip, even though it is several blocks from the water, just outside the mandatory evacuation zone.
"Objects outside can be projected as missiles," he said. "I figured my apartment didn't seem as safe as I thought, as every room has a window."
Eerie avenues: A lone man walks past a boarded up Flatiron Building, left, while pedestrains walk across a virtually traffic-free Fifth Avenue
No go area: In the city that never sleeps, The Times Square subway station is spookily silent
An MTA worker locks a gate at the subway at Grand Central Station
Shutting down: Ticket agents remove the stanchions which form the ticketing lines at JFK International Airport
We're waiting: A volunteer puts up a sign in a shelter centre at Newcomers High School in Queens
Covered up: A woman and her son walk through Times Square