A National Weather Service bulletin Friday morning on Hurricane Sandy reported the storm had weakened Thursday night but remained on course to hit the Philadelphia area directly.
The 2 a.m. update had Sandy in or near the Bahamas with sustained winds of 85 mph, down from 105 mph at 5 p.m. Thursday. That means a reduction from Category 2 to Category 1 status.
Forecasters predict the storm will continue to move north off-shore until turning northwest and hitting the coast Monday or Tuesday.
The center could make landfall as far south as the Outer Banks or as far north as Rhode Island in the latest projection, but the path of least deviation would take it right over South Jersey, then through Philadelphia and Harrisburg en route to Lake Erie.
The storm is due to arrive almost exactly 14 months after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene lashed the Philadelphia area.
Hurricane-force winds—74 mph and above—seem unlikely to persist once Sandy makes landfall; a projection at 8 p.m. Thursday put those odds below 5 percent.
The same NWS projection put Sandy at even money to hit the shore as a tropical storm, with winds of 39 mph and above.
By 8 p.m. Sunday, the storm's center is due to be a couple hundred miles off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Then at 8 p.m. Monday, the forecast expects Sandy to be about 100 miles east of Virginia Beach.
In the 24 hours after that, according to the National Weather Service's projections, Sandy should turn sharply to the northwest, with the storm center making landfall in South Jersey and passing effectively through Philadelphia on its way to Lake Erie.
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