An afternoon update from the National Hurricane Center in Miami predicts the track of Hurricane Sandy will still lead the storm towards a landfall somewhere near Delaware Bay. Meanwhile, however, a new forecast model is calling for a direct hit in central New Jersey.
"This storm is for real," said meteorologist Steve DiMartino of NYNJPAWeather.com.
DiMartino said the latest European forecast model out at 2:30 p.m. showed the storm tracking more toward the Sandy Hook area than Delaware Bay.
No matter where landfall could occur, Jersey Shore residents and officials began preparing for the storm's wrath Friday, stocking up at stores and hauling boats out of the water.
State Police SUVs formed a convoy on Bridge Avenue in Point Pleasant Borough, each towing large police boats from the agency's station on the Point Pleasant Canal. On Long Beach Island, a line of about 10 vehicles stretched along Division Street at the Surf City municipal boat ramp as local residents hurried to pull their vessels out of the water.
Down the street, the Tuckerton Lumber Company was already out of sand bags.
"You're just a little too late," an employee told a customer. "We sold out this morning."
In Brick, a man operating a front loader was constructing a berm in front of the Ocean Club, a beachfront condominium complex.
No watches and warnings have been posted in New Jersey, though Cape May County's barrier islands and Mantoloking Borough, in Ocean County, each were under voluntary evacuations.
The National Hurricane Center's 2 p.m. update Friday showed Sandy tracking north at the snail's pace of 7 m.p.h. The weak category one hurricane was packing winds of 75 m.p.h. and was positioned about 430 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C.
The agency was still forecasting the storm to track south of where computer models forecasted earlier in the week, but the entire Shore Area was advised to keep tabs on the massive storm.
DiMartino said his expectation is that the official National Hurricane Center track will bring the projections on landfall a bit north this evening.
"All the models are having a difficult time with the track of this storm," he said.