A tropical storm warning remained in effect for coastal Broward and Miami-Dade counties Thursday as Hurricane Sandy moved through the central Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Though Sandy is expected to stay to the east of Florida, tropical storm conditions are expected along Florida's east coast Thursday night and Friday, according to the hurricane center.
"We are going to continue to see wind gusts to 35 to 40 miles per hour," said National Weather Service Meterologist Robert Molleda. "We are going to see that for much of the day today into tonight."
Molleda said there will be quick bursts of gusty downpours, winds, tropical storm force wind gusts, high surf, dangerous rip currents and possible coastal flooding. Driving conditions were dangerous and people were advised to not go to the beach.
"Once we get into tonight and especially tomorrow, that's when the potential for higher winds will be," Molleda said. "By tomorrow, wind gusts could be as high as 50 miles per hour."
Friday was expected to be windier and drier than Thursday. On Saturday the winds will taper off to between 30 and 40 miles per hour, he said. And Sunday will be a nice, breezy day.
"By Saturday the storm will be north of the Bahamas, moving away from the area," he said.
Also, people in the Northeast states should monitor the storm closely because it will transition from a tropical cyclone to an extra-tropical cyclone and impact their area, said Hurricane Specialist Todd Kimberlain. He said the storm will carry a lot of wind and rain, including gale or storm force winds and beach erosion.
"There is going to be dangerous surf conditions everywhere from Florida to New England," Kimberlain said.
He said there will be high wave heights, possibly up to 30 or 40 feet, he said.
"I think one way to describe it is, it's going to become a huge wind machine, " he said.
Eleven people have died in Cuba from Hurricane Sandy, Cuban state media announced Thursday night.
The storm has killed 10 people elsewhere in the Caribbean – nine in Haiti and one in Jamaica.
Sandy was downgraded from a Category 2 to a Category 1 hurricane in the National Hurricane Center's final update for Thursday.
By 11 p.m., Sandy had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph as it moved north-northwest at 13 mph about 15 miles north-northeast of Eleutheura Island in the Bahamas and about 185 miles east-southeast of Freeport Grand Bahama Island.
As of 3:30 p.m., 2,152 in Miami-Dade and 3,941 in Broward were without power.
The Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center will be at a level 3, monitoring status. Residents can find more information here. Officials say that even though residents were in immediate danger, as a precaution, they should review their hurricane plans.
The tropical storm warning was in effect for Florida's east coast from Ocean Reef to Flagler Beach, Lake Okeechobee and parts of the southeastern Bahamas.
Rainfall of 1-3 inches are possible across the Florida Keys and southeast and central Florida.
Early Thursday, crews were out clearing sand that had blown from Fort Lauderdale Beach onto the sidewalk and A1A.
Miami-Dade County officials asked people to monitor the storm and advised people to avoid beaches with rip currents, swim only at beaches with lifeguards on duty, watch for flying debris, watch for objects blowing across the roads and drive slowly. Broward County officials said potential impacts included downed power lines and outages and dangerous driving conditions.
At Fort Lauderdale Beach, workers went from one lifeguard stand to the next putting up red flags. Deerfield Beach officials said their beach was closed to swimmers but said surfing was permitted as long as surfers used a leash.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport reported Thursday night that 24 arrival flights and 23 departures were canceled for the day.
A JetBlue flight to Kingston, Jamaica Friday morning has also been canceled.
Sandy caused the cancelation of 23 arrivals and 21 departures at Miami International Airport.
Passengers who had their flight canceled Wednesday were back at MIA in the hopes of catching the earliest flights Thursday.
Paulette Brown said she spent the night in Miami after her flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica was canceled Wednesday. She's hoping to get to her son's wedding in Ocho Rios Friday.
"We have looked forward to this wedding for the past two years, so it was like ugh, this cannot be true,'" Brown said.
Alessandro Pasiandoto, his wife and three other relatives were also stranded. They arrived in Miami from Sao Paulo Thursday morning and were supposed to catch a flight to Nassau, but all departures there were canceled.
"We don't control the weather," Pasiandoto said with a smile.
South Beach's Ocean Drive is usually bustling with activity, but the howling wind and nasty weather kept residents and tourists at bay Thursday. Weak trees toppled over on city streets.
Business was slow along Lincoln Road. But that didn't stop executive chef Beppe Galazzi of Sibilla Italian Cuisine from firing up the brick oven, as customers took shelter inside rather than endure the soggy conditions outdoors.
"Nobody was around, but we said lets grab a bite to eat anyways. So we're enjoying ourselves despite the storm," resident Jennifer Paik said.
School officials in Miami-Dade and Broward said classes are confirmed for Thursday but will be closed Friday for teacher planning day.
Broward schools canceled all outdoor activities for Thursday and Friday, spokeswoman Nadine Drew said. Miami-Dade schools canceled outdoor activities for Thursday and officials are deciding whether to cancel events for Friday.
The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show will go on as planned, with Thursday's aerial flyover and Friday's fireworks show both moved to Sunday.
"The show is constructed in a way that it would withstand tropical force winds, so if we do experience something like that, the show will be able to handle it,” said show operator Daniel Grant. “At this point, we don’t see anything that the show will not be able to handle.”
A tropical storm watch was in effect for the Florida east coast from north of Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach, the Florida Upper Keys from Ocean Reef to Craig Key and Florida Bay.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the northwestern Bahamas, and a tropical storm warning was in effect for the central Bahamas.
The center of Sandy will continue moving near or over the northwestern Bahamas Thursday night and Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.
Sandy is expected to weaken some more over the next 48 hours but will remain a hurricane during that time.