Alex Sosnowski, an expert senior meteorologist for Accuweather.com, called Sandy “an extremely rare and dangerous storm,” menacing 60 million people, that “could lead to billions of dollars in damage.”
Taking the dire predictions to heart, residents were bracing for huge tidal surges, power outages, inland flooding and even heavy snowfall on high ground far from the coast.
“Sandy will be more like a large nor’easter on steroids,” Sosnowski wrote.
It could have the strength of a category one or two hurricane, he explained, but with powerful winds extending out hundreds of miles from the centre.
President Barack Obama was briefed by top emergency officials Saturday, the White House said, and governors declared states of emergency in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the US capital Washington and a coastal county in North Carolina.
The president also has cancelled two campaign events early next week to monitor developments related to Sandy.
The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, told reporters Saturday evening that the latest trajectory showed the storm hitting the Maryland and Delaware areas to the south and that, for the moment, no evacuations were being ordered.
Meanwhile, concern was also mounting that storm damage and power outages could have a major impact on voter turnout, polling station readiness and last-minute campaigning by Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney.
US Vice President Joe Biden cancelled a Saturday appearance in Virginia Beach to allow officials to focus on storm preparations and Romney did the same.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Saturday the president was giving priority to preparations for the impending storm over campaigning, but had not so far changed his schedule because of Sandy.
Meteorologists have nicknamed the unusual confluence of weather patterns a “Frankenstorm,” because it is due to hit just before Halloween on October 31 and is composed of parts from different sources, as was Frankenstein’s monster.
The powerful hurricane earlier claimed 11 lives in eastern Cuba, including several people who died in the rubble of collapsed buildings.
On Wednesday, Sandy unleashed its wrath on Jamaica, where one person died, and on Haiti, where 44 people were killed according to an updated official toll.
Two people were reported dead in the Dominican Republic and one in the Bahamas.