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October 26, 2012

'Frankenstorm' hybrid may be created as Sandy nears East Coast

Hurricane Sandy will probably grow into a "Frankenstorm" as it nears the Northeast early next week with wind and rain that may cause millions of dollars in damage anywhere from Washington to New York and Boston.

Sandy, a Category 2 storm with winds of 105 miles (169 kilometers) per hour, will begin to transform into a hybrid system as it closes in on the East Coast, said Tom Downs, a forecaster at Weather 2000 Inc. in New York.

"The guys in the government are calling it 'Frankenstorm'" because it will be a hybrid between a tropical system and a nor'easter, Downs said. "It is safe to say that there will be millions of dollars in damage."

Sandy was 25 miles east of Great Exuma in the central Bahamas as of 1 p.m. New York time, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory. It was moving north at 20 mph on a wobbling track that nears New Jersey on Oct. 30.

Sandy damaged at least 3,000 homes in eastern Cuba, along with coffee and tomato crops, according to Air Worldwide, a catastrophic modeling firm in Boston.

On Jamaica, where Sandy hit Wednesday, 70 percent of the island lost power, roofs were torn from off homes and roads were blocked by downed trees and floods, according to Air Worldwide.

A hurricane gets its power from warm ocean waters, while a nor'easter gains strength from differences in air temperature, Downs said. Sandy, a big, warm tropical system, is going to collide with cold air and low pressure along the eastern U.S., combing the elements of both.

"So this is going to be a hybrid storm with wind flow over a wider area than a hurricane," Downs said by telephone. "You're not going to experience the massive damage in a concentrated area. Any damage is going to be more widespread but it isn't going to be as catastrophic as a hurricane."

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