Hurricane Sandy: Preparations go into overdrive

(CBS News) Hurricane Sandy is currently in the Bahamas and is now considered a a Category 1 storm, a weakened version of the storm since Thursday with winds at 80 miles per hour, David Bernard, chief meteorologist for CBS News Miami station CBS-4, reported on "CBS This Morning."

"The storm is going to leave the Bahamas tonight and it's going to parallel the East Coast for the next 24 to 48 hours," he said. "So by Sunday night, early Monday morning, it'll be roughly east of the outer banks of North Carolina, and then that infamous turn to the west is expected to occur sometime on Monday or Monday night."

Hurricane Sandy forces East Coast to brace for hit
Pictures: Hurricane Sandy

But even in its weakened state, Bernard said Sandy is going to be "a very large storm." He explained, "An approach to the coastline like that, whether you're talking Chesapeake Bay or north towards Long Island coming in from the east, that's not a very good direction. It's a very unusual one. And one of the reasons for is it we have a big roadblock in the central Atlantic -- it's a big blocking high -- that's going to force the storm westward, then it's going to get caught up in this cold air. That's why we're talking about there could be factors with this storm that you might not normally see as the hurricane makes landfall and that could be the form of some winter-type activity."

(Watch Bernard's full report in the video above.)

Florida residents in some coastal areas are already under a tropical storm warning and the threat of storms has already forced some cities to cancel school for the day. Residents there, as the winds picked up speed and rain grew stronger, wasted no time preparing for Sandy's arrival, some filling sandbags that are intended to ward off flooding.

One resident said, "I think it's going to be a big one. I just hope it doesn't hit us too hard."

(For Manuel Bojorquez's full report, watch the video in the player below.)

But Floridians aren't the only ones gearing up for what could become the storm of the season. With memories of last year's Hurricane Irene still fresh in everyone's mind, utility companies as far north as Connecticut are bracing for the worst.

Mitch Gross, of Connecticut Light and Power, said, "(We're) getting our resources ready, making sure our people are ready, getting everything in order."

In Maryland, batteries, generators, and radios flew off store shelves.

John Johnson, of Berlin, Md., said, "We are talking about five to six days possibility, so therefore you gotta sort of plan for that."

On the East Coast, some are also preparing by cutting down trees, building sand berms, and at a Baltimore marina, getting the boats out of the water, CBS News' Chip Reid reported.

The planning isn't unfounded, based on Bernard's assessment on "CTM." He said the storm's wind field is growing. "(We expect) storm-force winds for a large part of the northeast and mid-Atlantic, then power outages as well, and there's a possibility of very heavy inland snows, especially in western Pennsylvania, some of the higher terrain there, into West Virginia, northern Virginia, maybe even the mountains of western Maryland could see heavy snows as a result of the tropical moisture coming in and winter cold wrapping in behind it."

It's planning that could also save lives. Hurricane Sandy is now blamed for at least 21 deaths across the Caribbean. In Cuba, nine people were killed as Sandy toppled houses, ripped off roofs, and flooded entire neighborhoods, making it the island's most deadly storm since 2005. In the Dominican Republic, flash flooding buried cars and trees under water. And in Jamaica, most of eastern part of the island remains without power and even with the storm gone, flash flooding remains a danger. A Jamaican reporter described the scene there this way: "The water is flowing heavily and it is going to get worse. Right now it is a clear and present danger."

(Chip Reid reported on the preparations being made in New England. Watch his report in the video below.)

Now faced with news of Sandy's destructive potential, those living in her path can only do their best as they prepare for the worst.

One Florida resident said, "Just last week, we talked about the fact that we hadn't had any hurricanes this year, and here we are."

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