Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Bahamas on Thursday after slashing across eastern Cuba, where it ripped off roofs and forced postponement of a hearing at the Guantanamo naval base but caused no reported deaths.
The Category 2 hurricane killed four people elsewhere in the Caribbean, and forecasters warned it will likely mix with a winter storm to cause a super storm in the U.S. next week whose effects will be felt along the entire East Coast from Florida to Maine and inland to Ohio.
The hurricane was located about 60 miles southeast of Eleuthera late Thursday afternoon as it neared Cat Island in the central Bahamas. The storm was moving north at 20 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph.
Power was already out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, said government administrator Berkeley Williams.
He said his biggest concern is that a boat filled with basic supplies for the island canceled its trip until next week.
"Supplies were low before, so you can imagine what we are going through now," Williams said.
On Ragged Island in the southern Bahamas, the lone school was flooded, "we have holes in roofs, lost shingles and power lines are down," said Charlene Bain, local Red Cross president. "But nobody lost a life, that's the important thing."
People across the Bahamas formed long lines to stock up on water, canned goods, flashlights and other items, leaving grocery store shelves nearly empty.
Sooner Halvorson, a 36-year-old hotel owner from Colorado who recently moved to the Bahamas, said she and her husband, Matt, expect to ride out the storm with their two young children, three cats, two dogs and a goat at their Cat Island resort.
"We brought all of our animals inside," she said, though she added that a horse stayed outside. "She's a 40-year-old horse from the island. She's been through tons of hurricanes."
Bernard Ferguson, owner of Tranquility On The Bay Resort in Crooked Island, said heavy rains are a big concern.
"Some settlements are cut off from the rest of the island because the flooding is so deep," he said.
Steven Russell, an emergency management official in Nassau, said that docks on the western side of Great Inagua island have been completely destroyed and that the roof of a government building was partially ripped off.
"As the storm passes over Eleuthera and Cat Island, they should get a pretty good beating," he said. "There are sections of Eleuthera we are concerned about."
The massive Atlantis resort went into lockdown mode after dozens of tourists left Paradise Island before the airport closed, said George Markantonis, president and managing director of Kerzner International, which manages the resort. He said the resort is now less than half full, but all its restaurants, casinos and other facilities are still operating.
Hurricane Sandy was expected to churn through the central and northwest Bahamas late Thursday and early Friday. It also might bring tropical storm conditions along the southeastern Florida coast, the Upper Keys and Florida Bay by Friday morning.
With storm conditions projected to hit New Jersey with tropical storm-force winds on Tuesday, there is a 90 percent chance that most of the East Coast will get steady gale-force winds, flooding, heavy rain and maybe snow starting Sunday and stretching past Wednesday, said U.S. forecaster Jim Cisco.
Sandy was blamed for the death of an elderly man in Jamaica who was killed when a boulder crashed into his clapboard house, police said. Another man and two women died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti.
Officials reported flooding across Haiti, where many of the 370,000 people still displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake scrambled for shelter. More than 1,000 people were evacuated from 11 quake settlements, according to the International Organization for Migration.
In Cuba, authorities said they were worried about the damage Hurricane Sandy might have inflicted in small mountain villages still unheard from, but no deaths were reported.
"It crossed the entire eastern region practically without losing intensity or structure," said Jose Rubiera, the island's chief meteorologist.
Santiago, Cuba's second largest city near the eastern tip of the island, was spared the worst of the storm, which slammed into the provinces of Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas.
Cuban President Raul Castro ordered authorities to evaluate damage throughout eastern Cuba, and state media said they expected to release more information throughout the day.
There were no reports of injuries at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but there were downed trees and power lines, said Kelly Wirfel, a base spokeswoman. Officials had canceled a military tribunal session scheduled for Thursday for the prisoner charged in the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole.
Far out in the Atlantic, post-tropical cyclone Tony kept weakening and posed no threat to land. The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph and was moving east-northeast at 22 mph. Its center was about 615 miles southwest of the Azores.