On the US East Coast, people are frantically preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy which killed more than 50 people as it passed through the Caribbean. Sandy is currently categorized as a Category 1 hurricane.
On its current projected track, Sandy is most likely to make US landfall on Monday night between Delaware and the New York/New Jersey area, forecasters said.
While Sandy's winds were not overwhelming for a hurricane, its width was what made it exceptional. The storm's hurricane force winds extended 105 miles (165 km) from its center while its lesser tropical storm-force winds reached across 700 miles (1,125 km).
According to the weather service the so-called "Frankenstorm" could leave 4 to 5 inches (7 to 13 centimeters) of rain inland and 5 to 8 inches nearer the ocean.
Officials worry more, however, about what could potentially happen next. Hurricane Sandy will likely collide with a seasonal "nor'easter" system, which could increase its strength and drag it west, into states such as Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and even inland Ohio.
Alex Sosnowski, a meteorologist for Accuweather.com, called Hurricane Sandy "an extremely rare and dangerous storm." It threatens 60 million people in the United States, and damages could total billions of dollars, he said.
Residents should look out for huge tidal surges, power outages, flooding and even heavy snowfall on high ground far from the coast. It could have the strength of a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, Sosnowski explained, but winds could extend hundreds of miles from the storm's center.
'Life and property'
The National Weather Service urged people to complete "preparations for the protection of life and property." A state of emergency has been declared in that states of Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, a coastal county in North Carolina, and Washington, DC, the US capital. Further north, in New York city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, told residents not to panic, saying that the city has prepared for Hurricane Sandy.
Concern has also grown about Hurricane Sandy's potential impact on the US election, scheduled for November 6, a week after the storm is supposed to hit the area where it could cause the most harm. Storm damage and power outages could have a major impact on voter turnout, polling station readiness and last-minute campaigning by President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney.
Hurricane Sandy killed 11 people in Cuba, several of whom died in the rubble of buildings that collapsed in the storm. The hurricane also damaged hundreds of homes, flooded crops and downed trees.
Wednesday saw another high toll, when Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti and 44 people were killed according to an updated official toll. Two people were reported killed in the Dominican Republic, one in the Bahamas, and one in Jamaica.
mg / jlw (Reuters, dpa, AP)