Hurricane Sandy's strong winds cause power outages in Central Fla.

Rain, strong winds lash Florida's east coast beaches

ORLANDO, Fla. - Hurricane Sandy brought rain, gusty winds, high seas and strong rip currents to Central Florida, causing minor damage along the coast.

Power outages challenged Florida Power and Light workers in Volusia County, where 3,340 families were without electric. About 310 customers lost power in Brevard. 116 outages were reported in Altamonte Springs. Orlando had about 198 outages.

Torrential rain made it difficult for drivers to see the road. Numerous weather-related accidents were reported.

Several trees were toppled in Brevard and Volusia counties, with one demolishing a car, damaging a boat and downing a power pole in the yard of a home in the 600 block of Mulberry Street in Daytona Beach.

Winds as strong as 55 mph were recorded at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, with swirling outer bands dropping more than an inch of rain on parts of the coastline.

"It's in, it's out," said Local 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges, referring to the rain.  "The storm will impact the northeast U.S. for the early part of the workweek, likely making landfall anywhere from Washington to New York City."

Ten-foot seas, with waves expected to reach 20-feet later Friday, brought several onlookers to Central Florida beaches, including Robbie Fricks, who said he drove more than three hours to boogie board in the ocean.

"I might as well jump in if I'm here," he said.  "There was a lot of tugging (from rip currents), for sure."

"I wasn't born crazy," said another onlooker who stayed out of the rough surf.

In Volusia County, beach driving has been closed through Sunday.

Strong winds blew a fence gate into the ocean off Daytona Beach and toppled a rotted tree in Mims, but no injures were reported.

Brevard Public Schools were closed Friday as Sandy continued to trek north, and Brevard and Volusia counties canceled high school football games.

Extracurricular activities scheduled Friday were also canceled in Brevard County.  Activities will be rescheduled by the individual schools.

Students scheduled to take the ACT at Palm Bay High School on Saturday are encouraged to contact the ACT for directions about taking the test.

In Volusia County, schools were open Friday.  However, all athletic activities, events and field trips scheduled for Friday and Saturday were canceled. 

Sandy weakened a bit as she lashed the central Bahamas late Thursday with violent winds and torrential rains.  Earlier, she raged through the Caribbean, causing at least 21 deaths and forcing the postponement of a hearing at the Guantanamo naval base on Cuba.

Early Saturday, the storm was about 120 miles north of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and 375 miles south-southeast of Charleston, S.C. It was just above the threshold for being a hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, and was moving north at 7 mph.

By late Thursday, Sandy had slowed to a category 1 hurricane, but forecasters warned that it will likely blend with a winter storm to cause a super storm in the eastern U.S. next week whose effects will be felt along the entire Atlantic Coast and inland to Ohio.

Some further weakening in Sandy was forecast during the next 48 hours, but it was expected to remain a hurricane.

State media in Cuba said Sandy toppled houses, ripped off roofs and killed 11 people in the eastern provinces of Santiago and Guantanamo as it roared over the island as a category 2 storm early Thursday. Nine deaths were reported in Haiti and one in Jamaica.

Caroline Turnquest, head of the Red Cross in the Bahamas archipelago off Florida's east coast, said 20 shelters were opened on the main island of New Providence.

"Generally people are realizing it is serious," she said.

Power was out on Acklins Island and most roads there were flooded, government administrator Berkeley Williams said.  He said his biggest concern was that a boat filled with basic supplies for the island had to cancel 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."

Steven Russell, an emergency management official in Nassau, said that docks on the western side of Great Inagua island had been destroyed and that the roof of a government building was partially ripped off.

"As the storm passes over Eleuthera and Cat Island, they should get a pretty good beating," he said. "There are sections of Eleuthera we are concerned about."

The huge Atlantis resort went into lockdown after dozens of tourists left Paradise Island before the airport closed, said George Markantonis, president of Kerzner International, which manages the resort. He said the resort was now less than half full, but all its restaurants, casinos and other facilities were still operating.

Sooner Halvorson, a 36-year-old hotel owner from Colorado who recently moved to the Bahamas, said she and her husband, Matt, expected 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."

On Great Exuma island, guest house operator Veronica Marshall supplied her only customer with a flashlight and some food before Sandy bore down. The storm-hardened Bahamian said she was confident that she and her business would make it through intact.

"I'm 73 years old and I've weathered many storms," she said.

Cuban authorities said the 11 dead included a 4-month-old boy who was crushed when his home collapsed and an 84-year-old man in Santiago province.

It was Cuba's deadliest storm since July 2005, when Hurricane Dennis slammed into the island as a category 5 storm, killing 16 people and causing an estimated $2.4 billion in damage.

Santiago, Cuba's second largest city near the eastern tip of the island, was spared the worst of Sandy which also slammed the provinces of Granma, Holguin and Las Tunas.

Cuban President Raul Castro ordered authorities to evaluate damage throughout eastern Cuba.

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 canceled a military tribunal session scheduled for Thursday for the prisoner charged in the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole.

In Haiti, Joseph Edgard Celestin, a spokesman for the civil protection office, said the country's death toll stood at nine, including three people who died while trying to cross storm-swollen rivers in southwestern Haiti. He did not provide specifics of how other people died.

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.

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.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

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