New York City and northern regions in eastern corridor are likely to be hit hard and forecasters are warning that the storm may linger for days as it covers a massive area. There is a 90 percent chance that on Monday the East Coast will take a direct hit, forecasters say.
"This is not being overhyped. I would use the terms devastating and historic," Accuweather's Bernie Rayno said. "A one in 30 year storm, or even in the fact the way this storm is going to be tracking east toward the coastline in New Jersey, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime storm."
Sandy, currently a category 1 storm, will cross the Bahamas today as its western fringe scrapes eastern Florida, according to the National Weather Service. The storm is expected to slow and turn northwest overnight and during the day.
The storm has left 21 people dead across the Caribbean, killing 11 people in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces and 10 in Haiti.As of 5 a.m., Hurricane Sandy was approximately 300 miles east of Miami and moving northwest at 13 mph. Florida is expected to see stormy conditions today, with 1-4 inches of rain in some areas. Waves up to 15 feet along the coast are expected, as is a storm surge 1-2 feet along the Florida eastern coat.
Warnings are in effect along Florida's east coast from Ocean Reef to Flagler Beach. Storm watches are in effect on Florida's east coast from Flagler to Fernandina Beach and from the Savannah River north to Oregon Inlet, N.C., including Pamlico Sound.
By Saturday afternoon, Sandy is expected to increase its forward speed and become a hybrid storm, pushing a lot of rain into the Carolinas and southern Mid-Atlantic region, with some areas getting more than a half a foot of rain through Sunday.
"We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco told The Associated Press. "It's almost a weeklong, five-day, six-day event. It's going to be a widespread, serious storm."
Sandy's landfall is predicted to be somewhere in southern New Jersey on Tuesday around 8 a.m.
"I think it's fair to say we don't know when or if or where the storm's going to hit," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference Thursday. "The forecasters say it could be dangerous, but I think a word that they've been using most is it's unpredictable."
Forecasters told The Associated Press that the storm could linger in the atmosphere over the same locations for five or six days, and that is could bring six inches of rain, 80 mph wind gusts, 20- to 30-foot-high seas and extreme coastal flooding.
The entire system will weaken by the end of next week as is sits over the northeast, but strong winds and rain will remain across the region through next Friday.