NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Hurricane Sandy raged through the Bahamas early today after leaving 21 people dead across the Caribbean, following a path that could see it blend with a winter storm and reach the U.S. East Coast as a super-storm next week.
Sandy knocked out power, flooded roads and cut off islands in the storm-hardened Bahamas as it swirled past Cat Island and Eleuthera, but authorities reported no deaths in the scattered archipelago.
"Generally people are realizing it is serious," said Caroline Turnquest, head of the Red Cross in the Bahamas, who said 20 shelters were opened on the main island of New Providence.
Sandy, which weakened to a category 1 hurricane Thursday night, caused havoc in Cuba early in the day, killing 11 people in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces as its howling winds and rain toppled houses and ripped off roofs. Authorities said it was Cuba's deadliest storm since July 2005, when category 5 Hurricane Dennis killed 16 people and caused $2.4 billion in damage.
Sandy also killed one person while crossing Jamaica on Wednesday and 10 in Haiti, where heavy rains from the storm's outer bands caused flooding in the impoverished and deforested country.
Early Friday, the hurricane's center was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) east-southeast of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 485 miles (780 kilometers) south-southeast of Charleston, S.C. Sandy was moving northwest at 13 mph (20 kph) with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 kph).
Forecasters warned that Sandy will likely mix with a winter storm to create a monster storm in the eastern U.S. next week whose effects will be felt along the entire Atlantic Coast from Florida to Maine and inland to Ohio.
A new tropical storm watch was issued earlier today for a section of the U.S. East Coast extending from Savannah, Ga., northward to North Carolina's Outer Banks.