The National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. update that Hurricane Sandy continues to track northeast along the East Coast, with forecasters predicting few changes in strength for a storm expected to begin punishing the region later Sunday.
The storm is still expected to start curling north on Sunday night, churning toward land on Monday with the eye of the storm approaching the coast Monday night, the weather service said in its latest update. The storm remains deadly powerful, with sustained winds near 75 miles per hour and even stronger gusts.
Hurricane force winds extend 105 miles from the storm's center, while tropical storm force winds reach as as 520 miles, making Sandy an extremely large and powerful cyclone.
A tropical storm watch was discontinued late Saturday for the South Carolina coast, but high wind watches and warnings remained in effect for portions of southeastern Virginia and much of the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England.
Gale force winds are expected to arrive along the MidAtlantic coast by Sunday, according to the 11 p.m. forecast. Near hurricane force winds could extend into MidAtlantic states later in the day on Monday.
Surge-related flooding was expected to peak at one to two feet in the upper and middle portions of the Chesapeake Bay, while reaching four to eight feet in Ocean City, Md. The severity of flooding will depend on when the surge comes in the tide cycle.
The storm surge combined with strong winds could lead to extended flooding over multiple tide cycles, the hurricane center warned.
Rain will begin Sunday and be heavy Monday into Tuesday. Rainfall is expected to total four to eight inches over much of the region, with 12 inches possible in isolated areas.
The weather service said it will provide another full update at 5 a.m.