Residents in the Northeast, specifically in New York City and northward, are quickly coming to terms with the realization that the biggest monster they face for Halloween next week may be a creation of Mother Nature.
Forecasters are now saying that there is a 90 percent chance that on Monday the East Coast will take a direct hit from a "perfect storm" of three different systems -- Hurricane Sandy, an arctic front and a jet stream.
"It won't be just the intensity of the storm but the enormous area that it could affect," said Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Prediction Center. "From the mid-Atlantic to New England, it will park itself over parts of the East Coast for days."
With the height of the storm expected to occur Tuesday, forecasters warned that it could take its time, lingering in the atmosphere over the same locations for five or six days.
They said that the storm could bring with it more than six inches of rain, 80 mph wind gusts, 20- to 30-foot-high seas and extreme coastal flooding. More than six inches of heavy wet snow could also accumulate in parts of the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to West Virginia and as far inland as Ohio.
Meteorologists reportedly said it was likely to cause $1 billion in damage, more than the destruction caused by Hurricane Irene last year, which flooded the East Coast from Delaware to New England and killed at least 40.
East Coast teams were reportedly gearing up for the storm. Maryland was planning for hundreds of thousands of potential outages and 500 workers were being brought in from other states. And in New York City, emergency management officials were looking at the city's disaster plan.
"I think it's fair to say we don't know when or if or where the storm's going to hit," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today. "The forecasters say it could be dangerous, but I think a word that they've been using most is it's 'unpredictable.'"
Hurricane Sandy crashed through the Caribbean today, exploding in size and strength as it hit the Bahamas after pounding Jamaica.
The category 2 hurricane blasted winds of more than 110 mph and unleashed two feet of rain. At least two people were reportedly killed and hundreds were flooded out of their homes. In Florida, which was not expected to be directly hit, many schools canceled classes Friday as Sandy approached.
Fort Lauderdale's beach, which is usually packed, will have up to 10-foot waves near its shore, and up and down the Florida coast there have been warnings for deadly rip currents.
The last perfect storm of this type occurred in 1991 and though it remained far out at sea, it killed a dozen people and caused more than $200 million worth of damage.