People prepare as Hurricane Sandy approaches U.S. coast

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ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. —

Store owners along Atlantic Beach told Eyewitness News the one big thing bad weather means to them is bad business.

Hurricane Sandy, moving north from the Caribbean, was expected to make landfall Monday night near the Delaware coast, then hit two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid monster storm that could bring nearly a foot of rain, high winds and up to 2 feet of snow.

Officials did not mince words, telling people to be prepared for several days without electricity.

Waves swelled throughout Friday evening at Atlantic Beach, N.C., and the handful of onlookers disappeared as night fell.

“It’s empty right now,” said 4 Corners Diner cook Todd Harmon.

Business has been slow all day.

“I guess people are scared from the weather and all of that,” Harmon said.

Strong winds blew in Friday afternoon as many of the tourists left.

MORE: Storm heads for densely populated area of U.S.

The long, sustained winds are one of the big concerns in the Outer Banks from Hurricane Sandy. The storm is supposed to blow at tropical storm force through Monday.

Atlantic Beach Police Chief Allen Smith is worried.

“With sustained winds like that, more than likely there are going to be some trees and stuff to come over,” Smith said.

He wants people to watch out as police and firefighters keep an eye out.

Sandy has killed at least 40 people in the Caribbean, and just left the Bahamas. Residents from Florida to North Carolina will experience peripheral impacts of the hurricane through the weekend.

As it turns back to the north and northwest and merges with colder air from a winter system, West Virginia and further west into eastern Ohio and southern Pennsylvania are expected to get snow.

Sandy is "looking like a very serious storm that could be historic," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. "Mother Nature is not saying, 'Trick or treat.' It's just going to give tricks."

Some have compared the tempest to the so-called Perfect Storm that struck off the coast of New England in 1991, but that one hit a less populated area.

MORE: Check out facts on the Perfect Storm of 1991.

The second concern is the rain. It was falling on and off throughout Friday. This weekend, it will come in buckets.

One hotel owner is so concerned he put his furniture up on buckets. He is also worried about the storm surge. The high tide from an approaching full moon could mean several inches of water into his rooms.

“There are always concerns of flooding, especially when you live on an island,” Smith said.

The police chief said the worst flooding will be north of Atlantic Beach. He is worried about riptides that can pull swimmers out into the ocean. He said everyone should stay out of the water.

For more coverage of Hurricane Sandy, check out WSOC's hurricane page by clicking here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.