Brevard schools to close, Volusia after-school activities canceled as Sandy nears

Central Florida to see gusty winds, high seas, strong rip currents

ORLANDO, Fla. - Brevard Public Schools will be closed Friday as Hurricane Sandy continues to trek north on a projected path off Florida's east coast.

Extracurricular activities, including football games, scheduled Friday have also been canceled in Brevard County.  BPS will update the community Friday afternoon regarding any proposed changes to scheduled Saturday activities. Activities will be rescheduled by the individual schools. Students scheduled to take the ACT at any Brevard school on Saturday are encouraged to contact ACT for directions about test taking.

Brevard Community College will be open for classes Friday and Saturday but daycare centers will be closed.

[TRACKING SANDY: Troy Bridges' blog | JustWeather.comComputer models]

Volusia County Schools will be open Friday.  However, all athletic activities, events and field trips scheduled for Friday and Saturday have been canceled.  Dismissal time and extended day services on Friday will not be affected.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Brevard and Volusia counties, and Flagler County is under a tropical storm watch.

Local 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges said although the hurricane is not expected to directly impact the Orlando area, Central Florida will see gusty winds, high seas and strong rip currents.  Beach erosion is also a possibility, he said.

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 cause a super storm in the U.S. next week, mixing with a winter storm whose effects will be felt along the entire East Coast from Florida to Maine and inland to Ohio.

Late Thursday, the hurricane's center was 185 miles (300 kilometers) east-southeast of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island as it spun between Cat Island and Eleuthera in the central Bahamas. The storm's maximum sustained winds had fallen to 90 mph (150 kph), and Sandy was moving north-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

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."

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 the storm 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.

In the Bahamas, 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.

But other businesses on Paradise Island, where the capital of Nassau is located, remained closed.

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.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.