Sandy Gains Strength, Back to Hurricane Status
Hours after the National Weather Service downgraded Sandy from a hurricane to a tropical storm, a Hurricane Hunter aircraft recorded sustained winds at 75 mph, which passes the threshold of a Category 1 hurricane.
Regardless of its official category, Sandy is expected to be a monstrous storm that poses a serious threat for the entire Eastern Seaboard.
Forecasters say Sandy is a massive cyclone, with hurricane-force winds recorded as far as 100 miles away from the eye of the storm.
Tropical storm conditions could be felt in the Carolinas by Saturday evening.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for parts of Florida's East Coast, along with parts of coastal North and South Carolina and the Bahamas. Tropical storm watches were issued for coastal Georgia and parts of South Carolina, along with parts of Florida and Bermuda.
Experts said the storm could be wider and stronger than Irene, which caused more than $15 billion in damage, and could rival the worst East Coast storm on record.
As it spun away from the Bahamas late Friday, Sandy was blamed for more than 43 deaths across the Caribbean. The 18th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season hit the Bahamas after cutting across Cuba, where it tore roofs off homes and damaged fragile coffee and tomato crops.
Up and down the coast, people were cautioned to be prepared for days without electricity. Jersey Shore beach towns began issuing voluntary evacuations and protecting boardwalks. Atlantic City casinos made contingency plans to close, and officials advised residents of flood-prone areas to stay with family or be ready to leave. Several governors declared states of emergency. Airlines said to expect cancellations and waived change fees for passengers who want to reschedule.
"Be forewarned," Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. "Assume that you will be in the midst of flooding conditions, the likes of which you may not have seen at any of the major storms that have occurred over the last 30 years."
At a Home Depot in Freeport, on New York's Long Island, Bob Notheis bought sawhorses to put his furniture on inside his home.
"I'm just worried about how bad it's going to be with the tidal surge," he said. "Irene was kind of rough on me and I'm just trying to prepare."
After Irene left millions without power, utilities were taking no chances and were lining up extra crews and tree-trimmers. Wind threatened to topple power lines, and trees that still have leaves could be weighed down by snow and fall over if the weight becomes too much.
New York City began precautions for an ominous but still uncertain forecast. No decision had been made on whether any of the city's public transportation outlets would be shut, despite predictions that a sudden shift of the storm's path could cause a surge of 3 to 6 feet in the subways.
The subway system was completely shuttered during Irene, the first such shutdown ever for weather-related reasons. Irene largely missed the city, but struck other areas hard.
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