By late Monday afternoon, Christie was telling people who were still on the islands to stay in place until Tuesday with the hopes that rescuers could get to them then.
On New York's Long Island, floodwaters swamped cars and downed trees. A police car was lost during an attempt to rescue 14 people from the Fire Island resort.
Because much of the storm roared through after nightfall, the full extent of the destruction was not likely to emerge until after dawn.
In places like New Jersey, at least one more high tide was expected to bring water sloshing into coastal areas again before officials could get a good look at just how bad the damage was.
In Connecticut, authorities spent Monday night trying to get some 360,000 coastal residents to evacuate ahead of floods still expected there.
"The water's got no place to go," said Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. "It's been pushed all the way up the coast into this funnel."
Image: Streets around a Con Edison substation are flooded as the East River overflows into the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, N.Y., as Sandy moves through the area on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012.