Hurricane Sandy, blamed for two deaths, bore down on the central Bahamas and northeastern Cuba after slamming Jamaica, forecast officials said.
Weather advisories were posted for many Caribbean islands and portions of Florida, and officials were keeping watch along the U.S. East Coast.
Sandy, a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, was about 40 miles east of Holguin, Cuba, and 185 miles south of the central Bahamas, moving north at 5 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 5 a.m. EDT advisory.
Sandy is blamed for one death in Jamaica and one death in Haiti, CNN said.
Jamaican broadcaster TV J reported 70 percent of the island's residents were without power and 1,000 people were in shelters.
A hurricane warning was in effect for portions of Cuba, the central and northwestern Bahamas and the Ragged Islands in the southeastern Bahamas.
A tropical storm warning was posted for Haiti, parts of the southeastern Bahamas, Florida's east coast from Ocean Reef to Flagler Beach and Lake Okeechobee.
A tropical storm watch was in effect in Florida from north of Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach, the upper Keys from Ocean Reef to Craig Key and the Florida Bay.
On its forecast track, the center of Sandy will move off the northeastern coast of Cuba Thursday morning and move near or over the central Bahamas Thursday night.
Sandy was expected to produce 6-12 inches of rain across Haiti, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba. Rainfall totals of 3-6 inches were expected over portions of the Bahamas, and between 1-3 inches of rain were possible across the Florida Keys into southeast, east and central parts of the state. Some areas could see higher isolated rainfall, mudslides and flash-flooding.
The National Hurricane Center's five-day forecast indicated Sandy's center will skirt along the U.S. East Coast and could become a powerful nor'easter during the weekend, CNN reported.
CNN said Massachusetts Emergency Management advised that Sandy could make landfall somewhere between Maine and Virginia, bringing heavy rain, flooding, strong winds and power outages.
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