(Photo: NOAA National Hurricane Center)
Leaving at least 43 people dead, destroying numerous homes and felling trees and power lines in the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy was heading towards the U.S. East Coast late Friday amid fears of more destruction.
As the extremely rare and dangerous storm turns in from the Atlantic, it is likely to affect 60 million people and lead to billions of dollars in damage, according to Alex Sosnowski, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc.
Sandy's maximum sustained winds dropped to 70 miles per hour from 75 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory early Saturday when the storm was centered 155 miles north of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 350 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C., moving north-northeast at 10 mph.
Although the worst of the storm will be Monday through Tuesday, conditions may deteriorate from the mid-Atlantic to southern New England Sunday and Sunday night, Sosnowski said.
The death toll in the Caribbean from the storm was 42. Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas took direct hits from the storm, but impoverished Haiti bore the brunt due to almost incessant rains since Tuesday. The death toll in Haiti, which is still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake, stood at 29 late Friday, and the toll was likely to increase, according to The Associated Press.
Meteorologists have warned that flight delays and cancellations are expected in a large part of the U.S., as the storm is likely to hit several major airports, including in Boston, Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
The storm also has the potential to cause power outage to millions of people and flood coastal areas.
Paul Kocin, a National Weather Service meteorologist in College Park, told Bloomberg that if Sandy grows as expected, it may be the worst storm to hit the region in 100 years. "What we're seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century," he said. "We're not trying to hype it, this is what we're seeing in some of our models. It may come in weaker."
The U.S. target area of the storm is currently hard to predict. However, the storm might strike somewhere between the border separating North Carolina and Virginia north to Connecticut. The District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and New York have declared states of emergency. Maine has declared a limited emergency.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney canceled a campaign rally scheduled in Virginia Beach for Sunday. Vice President Joe Biden canceled his visit to Virginia Beach on Saturday.