60m in Path of the Frankenstorm SOUTHAMPTON/N.Y. NEW YORK

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Byline: From Tom Leonard in New York

BARACK Obama urged his countrymen to evacuate America's east coast yesterday as the largest storm the region has ever faced roared across the Atlantic towards its towns and cities.

Up to 60million people live in the path of Hurricane Sandy which was set to hit land last night with winds of more than 145 km/h. The brooding mass of cloud, up to 1,600 kilometres wide - nicknamed Frankenstorm as it has blended with another weather front - was picking up speed as it headed towards land. The distance is equivalent to that from Dublin to Lisbon, Portugal.

There were fears of widescale flooding with predictions that it could create a surge of seawater as high as four metres.

Major cities, including New York, were relatively deserted, public transport and schools were closed and thousands of flights were grounded. Jersey City, Washington, Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia will all be hit by the storm.

Wall Street suspended trading scheduled for today - the first time since 1888 it has ceased trading for two consecutive days.

Millions along America's eastern seaboard from North Carolina to Maine face up to ten days without electricity. More than 765,000 homes along the East Coast were already without power last night.

without power last night.

To make matters worse, the hurricane is moving slowly and could linger over the eastern seaboard for up to 36 hours. There were fears that rainfall in the next few days will exacerbate the floods.

Experts also said a full moon would intensify the storm surge, making high tides along the coast rise about 20 per cent more than normal.

More than 61,000 National Guardsmen have been mobilised although they are not enforcing the curfews that have been declared in some areas. The President said the storm would be 'life-threatening'.

In New York, which experts predicted would take the worst of the impact, the Broadway theatre dis-trict was among those which closed down completely. The city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, told those most at risk to 'get out immediately'.

New Jersey was also said to be in the direct path of the storm and was one of nine states in which a state of emergency had been declared by last night.

Atlantic City's famous boardwalk had already been badly damaged by the storm.

Forecasters said the category one Hurricane Sandy could become a super storm when it hits land and collides with cold fronts in the rest of the US.

'This is going to be a big storm...a difficult storm,' said Mr Obama.

'Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. Do not delay, do not pause, do not question.

For folks who are not following instructions, you are putting first responders at danger.' Only days away from the November 6 polling day, campaigning for the Presidential election was put on hold with Mr Obama and Mitt Romney cancelling engagements and insisting that addressing the superstorm was far more important.

With more than [euro]60billion of homes in the path of the storm, the damage to the American economy alone could be vast.

Politicians didn't mince their words about the danger.

Connecticut's governor, Dan Malloy, said that the storm was the 'largest threat to human life our state has experienced in anyone's lifetime'.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie added: 'Don't be stupid. Get out!' In New York, Mayor Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of 375,000 people in flood-prone areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The city that likes to say it never sleeps was out like a light yesterday as it effectively closed for business, leaving millions of New Yorkers to hunker down and watch the approaching nightmare on TV.

Streets in many parts of the city were as empty and the supermarket shelves picked clean by panic buyers. Local TV traffic presenters found themselves using such unfamiliar words as 'desolate' and 'ghost town'. …