(MCT) — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With Sandy now predicted to be about 200 miles east of South Florida as a hurricane on Friday, a tropical storm warning has been posted from Sebastian Inlet south to Ocean Reef.
The system is expected to generate strong gusty winds and bursts of rain, with the worst conditions arriving Thursday night and continuing through the day on Friday.
After intensifying into the season’s 10th hurricane Wednesday morning, Sandy struck south coast of Jamaica near Kingston at about 3 p.m. EDT with sustained winds of about 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
After crossing over Jamaica, Sandy is expected to hit eastern Cuba on Wednesday night and Thursday.
It then is expected to arrive in the central Bahamas on Thursday afternoon as a strong tropical storm, as it should be weakened by wind shear and dry air.
On Friday morning, it is predicted to be about 200 miles east of Miami, its closest approach to Florida.
In South Florida, The system is forecast to generate 35 to 40 mph winds with possible gusts up to 60 mph Thursday night and into the day on Friday.
The winds could knock down trees and power lines, cause power outages and make driving dangerous, particularly for vans, SUVs and trucks, said meteorologist Robert Molleda of the National Weather Service in Miami.
Sandy also is expected to produce about 1 to 2 inches of rain, with the possibility of higher amounts. The system should be less squally than Hurricane Isaac in late August — because this time, the region is on the storm’s drier side, Molleda said.
Just the same, there still is some potential for minor flooding, he said.
“We’re going to be the far western side of the circulation, so probably the heaviest rain will remain offshore,” he said. “But if the system nudges just a little to the west or grows larger in size, the rain bands could hug the coast.”
Central Florida also should be ruffled by windy conditions Thursday and Friday, with gusts up to 45 mph along the coast and 30 mph in the Orlando area. The region also should see scattered showers on Friday and Friday night.
Additionally, much of the state’s east coast is expected to see dangerous rip currents, beach erosion and minor flooding Thursday and Friday.
The nasty weather should start to subside on Saturday.
“Sunday should be clearing up with lighter winds and nice weather,” Molleda said.
For the Caribbean, Sandy poses a serious threat.
Sandy could produce up to 12 inches of rain across Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba, with isolated amounts of 20 inches possible.
The heavy rains could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, particularly in mountainous regions, the National Hurricane Center said.
The system also threatens to produce a storm surge of up to 5 feet above normal tide levels and large battering waves along its path.
For now, Sandy is not a large storm, as its hurricane-force winds — more than 74 mph — extend 25 miles from its core and its tropical-storm force winds — 39 to 73 mph — extend 140 miles.
However, as the system approaches the Bahamas, it is expected to expand, with its western fringes likely to reach South Florida, Molleda said.
After departing the Bahamas, Sandy is expected to curve northeast into the Atlantic and start falling apart by Sunday. Some models predict what’s left of the system might curve back toward the U.S. coastline and produce nasty weather in the Northeast next week.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Tony, the 19th named storm of the season, formed in the Central Atlantic on Tuesday night. It poses no threat to land.
Tony makes 2012 the third busiest season on record, tied with 1887, 1995, 2010 and 2011.
(Staff Writer Karen Yi contributed to this report.)