"This storm is still some ways off in many parts of the country," said Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to ABC News Radio. "You have the weekend to get ready, but that window will close as the storm gets closer and conditions continue to deteriorate. We urge people to check their plans, make sure they've got their supplies ready."
New York City and northern regions in the eastern corridor are likely to be hit hard, and forecasters are warning that the storm may linger for days as it covers a massive area. There is a 90 percent chance that on Monday the East Coast will take a direct hit, forecasters say.
"Compared to [Hurricane] Irene, we're going to see much broader surge impacts. The surge impacts for Irene were fairly tightly focused. This is going to be a broader event. Same thing with the wind," James Franklin, with the NHC, told ABC News.
In New York City, city agencies were gearing up for a potential huge hit, though Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not issue evacuation orders for residents in low-lying areas on Friday. But that could change, so he suggested people stay tuned in and not get complacent just because Irene didn't pack as big a punch as feared in the city.
"That may be a corollary effect, that people think you are crying 'wolf,'" Bloomberg said. "But we don't do this lightly."
Hundreds of miles south in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency on Friday.
"This is an event that is going to be beginning to affect the coastal areas of Virginia as early as [Saturday] morning," he said, "and the effects of which could last until next Tuesday with rain and next Wednesday with wind.
"People ought to know that, unlike some that come in and out in 24, 48 hours, it's going to be a long-standing weather event with wind and flooding and heavy rain, and very uniquely followed by cold," he added.
ABC's of the Hurricane Season Travel 2012 Sandy, currently a category 1 storm, was moving slowly away from the Bahamas today as its western fringe was expected to scrape eastern Florida, according to the National Weather Service.
As of 5 p.m., tropical storm warnings or watches were in effect ranging from the east coast of Florida north of Deerfield Beach to the area of Albemarle Sound in North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.
"We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting," NOAA's Jim Cisco told the Associated Press. "It's almost a weeklong, five-day, six-day event. It's going to be a widespread, serious storm."
The storm has left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean, killing 11 people in eastern Santiago and Guantanamo provinces and 10 in Haiti.