Editor's note: U.S. forecasters are warning New England and mid-Atlantic states to be ready for Hurricane Sandy next week, saying a combination of weather conditions threaten to help the storm be a disaster for them. The storm lashed the northwestern Bahamas on Friday morning after leaving at least 21 dead this week in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba.
[Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET] Sandy restrengthened to hurricane status Saturday morning after having weakened overnight. It is a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph. Meanwhile, North Carolina declared a state of emergency in 40 counties.
[Updated at 8:23 p.m. ET] Hurricane Sandy slogged northward Friday night at a 7 mph rate, heading further from the Caribbean and getting closer to menacing the U.S. East Coast.
With sustained winds of 75 mph - as was the case for Friday - the storm was centered 75 miles north of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 400 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, around 8 p.m., the National Hurricane Center reported.
Tropical storm warnings extend from Jupiter inlet in Florida north to North Carolina's Outer Banks.
For the latest, check out this report.
[Updated at 5:21 p.m. ET] Sandy continued to chug northward Friday afternoon, maintaining its intensity as forecasters extended tropical storm warnings through more of Florida.
According to the National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. update, a tropical storm warning - meaning conditions of intense rain and winds in excess of 39 mph are expected - now extends north up Florida's east coast from Deerfield Beach and further along the Atlantic coasts of Georgia and South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina.
With sustained winds of 75 mph, Sandy was centered 60 miles north of the Bahamas' Great Abaco Island and 420 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, as of late Friday afternoon.
[Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET] Sandy weakened a little more over the course of the day Friday, with its maximum sustained winds topping out at 75 mph, according to the 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. Still, even if it loses more strength over the coming hours, forecasters warn that it shouldn't be taken lightly.
"Forget about the category with this," said CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano, who warned that trees and power lines will come down and "the coastal flooding situation is going to be huge."
[Updated at 11:33 a.m. ET] A hurricane warning was in effect for Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands in the Bahamas as Hurricane Sandy made its way northward across the island chain Friday
The storm's maximum sustained winds remained at 80 mph, Category 1 strength, in the National Hurricane Center's 11 a.m. ET update. Some weakening is expected as the storm makes its way up the U.S. East Coast through the weekend.
[Updated at 9:40 a.m. ET] Hurricane Sandy is hitting the northwestern Bahamas with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph, spinning about 200 miles east of Florida's east coast. Tropical storm conditions are expected in eastern Florida into at least Friday night, and are possible along the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Flooding of 1 to 3 feet - if peak storm surges combine with high tide - is possible along Florida's east coast, the center said.
If predictions hold, Sandy could be a "menace to the Northeast" early next week, rolling in over an already elevated tide and increasing its storm surge, the National Weather Service said. It would dump lots of rain and deliver winds strong enough to knock over trees and power lines in a large region. And it would join with a second weather system currently over land to form a monster storm.
[Posted at 1:20 a.m. ET] Hurricane Sandy weakened to a Category 1 storm with winds of 90 mph late Thursday, but the massive system is a wolf in sheep’s skin, carrying heavy rains up the U.S. Atlantic Coast and threatening to merge with another storm system over land to become a “menace to the Northeast,” according to the National Weather Service.