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“The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I’m thinking a billion,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground. “Yeah, it will be worse.”

But this is several days in advance, when weather forecasts are usually far less accurate. The National Hurricane Center only predicts five days in advance, and each long-range forecast moves Sandy’s track closer to the coast early next week. The latest has the storm just off central New Jersey’s shore at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

As forecasts became more focused Thursday, the chance of the storm bypassing much of the coast and coming ashore in Maine faded, Cisco said.

The hurricane center’s Franklin called it “a big mess for an awful lot of people in the early part of next week.”

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Associated Press writer Tony Winton contributed to this report from Miami.

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Online:

NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center: http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/index.shtml

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

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Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears