The number of New York City area residents with no electricity shot up from 4,500 to nearly 350,000 in an eight-hour period Monday, as Hurricane Sandy made landfall just southwest of Atlantic City, N.J. Con Edison said it was forced to shut down power to lower Manhattan as a precautionary measure; the Battery Park area was seeing unprecedented flooding.

“The shutdown will help avoid extensive damage to company and customer equipment, and allow company crews to restore power to customers more quickly,” according to a statement on Con Ed’s site. Con Ed had warned earlier today that it would shut down underground electrical equipment that was in danger of flooding.

East Coast residents may have wondered whether the superlatives applied to Sandy were valid or just hype Monday morning, when many areas were still seeing just heavy rains. But as the storm made landfall, its repercussions quickly became apparent.

“And the lights go out in the Village,” read one Instagram update, showing a vast swath of Lower Manhattan completely darkened. According to CNN, more than 2.8 million are currently without electricity.

National Geographic News reported earlier Monday that Oyster Creek Generating Station, the oldest nuclear power plant in the United States, was preparing for the storm’s approach Monday. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission dispatched additional inspectors with satellite communications systems to Oyster Creek and eight other power plants that lie in the forecast path of the storm in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Connecticut.

Hurricane Sandy turned many areas of Manhattan into ghost towns as they were evacuated ahead of the storm. The storm is expected to slowly wind down over the next few days.