Hurricane Sandy, which closed businesses and airports on Jamaica as it moved north in the Caribbean, may strike the U.S. East Coast next week with the potential to cause millions of dollars in damage.
Sandy’s top winds reached 85 miles (137 kilometers) an hour as it moved off the north coast of Jamaica and headed toward Cuba, according to a U.S. National Hurricane Center advisory at 8 p.m. New York time.
“The table is set for some pretty major weather,” said Henry Margusity, an expert senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “Is it going to be an epic storm or is going to be just your typical nor’easter? We will have the answers next week.”
Sandy is expected to cross Cuba overnight and the Bahamas tomorrow, according to the hurricane center. The storm may then move parallel to the U.S. East Coast and either be pushed into the Atlantic Ocean or pulled into the coastline.
A computer model based in Europe took the storm up Delaware Bay, while another by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had Sandy curve into Portland, Maine, Margusity said. Both events would take place early next week.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said residents should monitor the storm’s progress.
One of the major weather patterns determining where Sandy will end up is the North Atlantic Oscillation, which is currently blocking weather systems moving off the U.S. The system may turn Sandy into the U.S. coast, Margusity said.
A storm on that potential track may do millions in damage from downed trees, power outages and flooding, he said.
Before then, Sandy is forecast to cross eastern Cuba and the Bahamas, where hurricane warnings have been issued, according to the hurricane center.
As much as 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain may fall on parts of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the center said. Three inches are possible in Florida.