WILMINGTON, Del. (The News Journal) - A wobbly but still on-track and powerful Hurricane Sandy homed in on the South Jersey coast, with high wind, heavy rain and flooding still a major risk with northern parts of Delaware seeing 6 to 8 inches of rain through Tuesday and southern areas receiving 8 to 10 inches.
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The latest National Hurricane Center assessment has the storm arriving over Atlantic City, N.J., at around midnight Monday or very early Tuesday, then heading toward Lancaster, Pa., before jogging north into western New York and Canada. At one point after landfall the center of the storm will pass across northern Brandywine Hundred.
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The most recent change in predictions for Sandy's position around Delaware shifted south by less than 20 miles compared with one issued earlier today, with the change briefly putting the storm just inside the state's northern border.
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Delaware officials said that last-minute fine tuning of Sandy's course will have no affect on warnings about the potential risk and need to prepare.
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"I don't think anybody stood down when they said it's going to track a little more north," Gary L. Laing, Delaware Emergency Management Agency community relations officer, said earlier today.
"Because the storm was going to be passing close enough to us, even if the eye made landfall in southern New Jersey, we knew we were still going to get a tremendous impact. This is still a very serious storm. If people have been told that they need to evacuate, they need to do it. They need to continue to prepare."
Earlier today, Gov. Jack Markell amended a limited state of emergency and evacuation order issued on Saturday. With the change, businesses within evacuation zones are required to be closed.
Warnings continued to call Sandy a dangerous, multiday, region-wide storm that will affect areas for hundreds of miles around the center. National Weather Service reports warned that Sandy would have "major, disruptive impact on our region Monday into early Tuesday." Flooding, power outages and debris cleanup will be "lingering much of the rest of the week."
"Devastating" tidal flooding was predicted for parts of northern New Jersey and New York.
Weather service forecasts showed sustained winds peaking in the 40 to 50 mph range overnight on Monday for New Castle County, with gusts topping 60 but diminishing by morning on Tuesday 20 to 30 mph sustained winds for the rest of the day. Gusts are expected to exceed 20 to 30 mph throughout the day.
Winds farther from the forecast track, in Sussex County, will top out short of 40 mph, but gusts will exceed 40 mph and top 50 mph late today and for much of the day on Monday.
Although winds at 8 p.m. Monday were expected to be 80 mph at the center off the South Jersey coastline, forecasters said totals would drop to below hurricane levels by early Tuesday, when the storm reached the Lancaster area and began a sharp northward turn.
Emergency officials have warned that sustained high winds will continue for days with Sandy, creating widespread risks of downed trees, power losses and coastal flooding.
Forecasters said the worst of the storm's coastal flooding would occur north of the storm's center, with up to 7 feet at Sandy Hook on Monday evening's high tide. Along Delaware Bay, however, Sunday morning high tides already were about 2 feet above already-high predictions, far in advance of the storm.
The News Journal