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Sandy Hits Cuba as Category 2 Hurricane, Heads North Toward Florida

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Hurricane Sandy picked up speed overnight before making landfall in Cuba early Thursday morning as a Category 2 hurricane.  With winds of 110 mph, the storm was just 1 mph shy of hitting the Caribbean island as a Category 3.

Sandy has since slowed down slightly, moving off the northeastern coast of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the National Weather Service.  It is expected to continue weakening as it moves through the Bahamas, where a hurricane warning is in effect.

"[Sandy will] move into the central Bahamas Thursday evening as a category 1 hurricane.  So it should maintain hurricane strength over the next 24 to 48 hours," Navy hurricane specialist Dave Roberts at the National Weather Center tells ABC News Radio.

The storm is then expected to brush the eastern coast of Florida, where tropical storm warnings and watches are in effect.

"There's a chance of tropical storm force winds along the southeastern portions of Florida Thursday evening and into Friday.  Based on that we do have a tropical storm warning up for southeast portions and also a tropical storm watch for the Upper Keys," Roberts says.

Sandy will then graze the Carolinas before making its way up to the Northeast, where it could bring strong wind gusts and heavy rainfall.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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