Hurricane Sandy is projected to hit the US East Coast early next week, where it could combine with two other weather systems.
After killing at least 39 people in the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy was moving toward the US coast on Friday where forecasters continued to predict it would morph into a destructive super storm.
“It’s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground.
Sandy has weakened slightly and is currently classified as a Category One hurricane – the lowest category.
But meteorologists say it could merge next week with other weather systems, unleashing a deadly punch of high wind, heavy rain, extreme tides and several days’ worth of snow.
On course to collide with Sandy: A wintry storm moving across the US from the west, and frigid air streaming south from Canada.
Should the weather systems merge, they could form what some are terming – in a nod to the upcoming Halloween holiday – a “Frankenstorm”.
With Sandy stretching 550 miles across, government forecasters have said there is a 90 per cent chance – up from 60 per cent two days ago – that the East Coast will get pounded when it makes landfall early next week.
Some are expecting as much as $1bn in damage, though it is still too early to tell if its power and trajectory will bring about that worst-case scenario.
On Friday afternoon Sandy was travelling north some 400 miles off the coast of South Carolina, with top sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).
Projections were showing it picking up speed as it turns toward the Northeast on Sunday.
Its trajectory had already disrupted at least one presidential campaign stops, with Mitt Romney cancelling a Sunday event in Virginia Beach, VA.
The Obama campaign said it would continue to monitor conditions.
The hurricane raged through the Bahamas on Friday after wreaking havoc in Jamaica and Cuba earlier in the week, knocking out power, flooding roads and cutting off islands in the storm-hardened region.
In Cuba, 11 people were killed in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces as its howling winds and rain toppled thousands of houses and ripped off roofs.
Authorities said it was Cuba’s deadliest storm since July 2005, when the Category Five Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused $2.4 billion in damage.