Andy Lugo talks on the phone after stocking up on supplies for branches of First Republic Bank in NYC in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Gary Strauss and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
After kissing Florida's east coast with winds and rain for much of Friday, Hurricane Sandy -- dubbed "Frankenstorm" for its potential monstrous effects -- has millions bracing for a massive weather system likely to drench much of the Eastern seaboard by Monday.
For the 50 million people who live in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast - roughly one-sixth of the U.S. population - Hurricane Sandy's winds, rains and potential snow could cause widespread havoc, with weather forecasters predicting up to 10 inches of rain in some regions, snowstorms in others and widespread wind damage that could down power lines.
At least 38 deaths in Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti were already reported in Sandy's wake, including a 4-month-old Cuban boy crushed when his home collapsed. There were no reports of injuries at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.
"This will be a long-lasting event, with two to three days of impact," said James Franklin, branch chief of the National Hurricane Center. "Wind damage, widespread power outages, inland flooding and storm surge are all likely."
Although mostly out at sea today and weakening slightly, Sandy is still gearing up for an assault from South Carolina to New England. Weather forecasters said the storm will likely run into a cold front approaching from the Midwest, which could dump up to two feet of snow in parts of West Virginia and Virginia.
"This is a very unusual weather event as a result of a late season hurricane combining with cold front from the West,'' said Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, who declared a state emergency Friday in advance of the storm to aid disaster preparations. "This is still an unpredictable weather event, but one that's possibly very dangerous."
As of 5:00 p.m., the center of Hurricane Sandy was located
about 60 miles north of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. This is 420 miles
south-southeast of Charleston, S.C. It remains a Category 1 hurricane, but just
barely, with a sustained wind speed of 75 mph. It is crawling to the north at
about 7 mph. Sandy was forecast to weaken to tropical storm later Friday before regaining momentum to hurricane status Sunday off the North Carolina coast. . But the main onslaught is forecast for Monday and Tuesday in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
"We are now 90% certain the storm will make landfall in the U.S.," said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction.
AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines says winds could have the biggest impact, causing widespread power outages. "You've got to be concerned since it's an area with such a large population," Kines says.
Delaware was bracing for a threat rivaling the March 1962 nor'easter that has stood as the state's worst storm. Delaware's top environmental officer, Dept. Natural Resources and Environmental Control Sec. Collin O'Mara, said Sandy could unleash record waves and tidal flooding along the coast.
"The potential on this is greater than the defenses that we have in most
places," O'Mara said. "We're taking this as an extremely significant problem,
probably the most-significant we've seen in decades. We're taking every
Insurer Allstate was expanding efforts to prepare for the storm, spokeswoman April Eaton said."We are currently rolling our catastrophe personnel, mobile claim centers and catastrophe response vehicles to Raleigh, N.C., for staging," she said. "Staging allows us to get our national catastrophe team members and units positioned in a safe place, but close to areas that may be impacted by Sandy. Once we see where the hurricane makes landfall, and authorities allow us in, we're able to move from the staging area or holding pattern and go into the heavily damaged communities to help Allstate customers begin the claim process."Eaton said they plan to send nine mobile claim centers to Raleigh, N.C., and Allentown, Pa.