Sandy strengthens into a hurricane with 80mph winds.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for the East Coast of Florida from Jupiter Inlet south and west to Flamingo…including Florida Bay. A tropical storm watch has been issued for the Florida Upper Keys from Ocean Reef southward to Craig Key.
At 1100am EDT…1500 UTC…the center of Tropical Storm Sandy was located near latitude 17.1 north…longitude 76.7 west. Sandy is moving toward the north-northeast near 13 mph…20 km/h…and this general motion is expected to continue through Thursday accompanied by a gradual increase in forward speed.
On the forecast track…the center of Sandy is expected to move across Jamaica by late this afternoon and evening…move near or over eastern Cuba late tonight and Thursday morning…and approach the central Bahamas on Thursday.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 80 mph…130 km/h…with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours…and Sandy is expected to become a hurricane by the time it reaches Jamaica and Cuba.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles…220 km from the center. A NOAA buoy located well to the east of the center recently reported a sustained wind of wind 56 mph…90 km/h and a gust of 74 mph.