FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – South Florida dodged a bullet Friday, as Hurricane Sandy’s fringes produced little more than a gray, rainy and gusty day. But the system’s worst may be yet to come.

The Associated Press reported that the Category 1 storm rolled out of the Bahamas on Friday after causing 40 deaths across the Caribbean, churning toward the U.S. East Coast, where it threatens to join forces with winter weather fronts to create a devastating super storm — already widely known as “Frankenstorm.”

The super storm could strand thousands of New York-bound air passengers in South Florida for most of next week.

“It’s not going to be a pretty setup,” said Mike Nonnemacher, operations director for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International. “We’re already expecting to have issues.”

Air travel between South Florida and the Northeast is one of the busiest corridors in the nation, with scores of planes flying to the New York area each day.

“The majority of our traffic travels into the airport from that area,” said Casandra Davis, Palm Beach International spokeswoman.

Virtually the entire nation’s air travel could be bogged down if Frankenstorm develops. Numerous states along the East Coast could be hit with up to 2 feet of snow, government forecasters said Friday.

Adding to the problem in South Florida, thousands more passengers could come off cruise ships and discover their flights have been canceled. If so, they’ll need hotel rooms, Nonnemacher said.

Airport officials urged passengers to check with their airlines.

Under the latest forecast, Sandy would aim for southern New Jersey, making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday. If that happens, it could produce wind damage, power outages and flooding over a multi-state area — and potentially in New York City.

“We’re looking at something bigger than Irene,” said James Franklin, top hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County, referring to the storm that caused extensive flooding in 10 states and left more than 40 dead last year.

On Friday evening, Sandy was in the Atlantic about 420 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C., lumbering northwest.

Although the system came within 200 miles of West Palm Beach, its strongest winds remained offshore, sparing South Florida.

Gusts ranging from 40 to 60 mph still created problems. Some trees were uprooted; roads were littered with vegetative debris. The winds combined with high tides flooded a portion of State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale.

Florida Power and Light reported 116,000 customers lost power, largely as a result of trees and vegetation falling onto power lines. Of those, 47,000 were in Broward County, 40,000 were in Miami-Dade County and 29,000 were in Palm Beach County.

By Friday evening, power had been restored to 93,000 customers and the utility hoped to have the rest restored by Saturday, said spokesman Greg Brostowicz.

The storm’s passing also left significant erosion in Broward, as large waves “really cut the beaches up pretty good,” said Eric Myers, natural resources administrator for the county. Myers said much of the sand was pulled out to sea. But “hopefully, a lot of that will come back,” he said.

Palm Beach County fared better, but high tides overnight Friday could still cause some problems, said Daniel Bates, the county’s deputy director for environmental resource management.

“There’s been some erosion, nothing too dramatic,” he said, adding that a more thorough assessment of the erosion will be made next week.

Meanwhile, the death toll was still rising in impoverished Haiti, reaching 26 on Friday as word of disasters reached officials and rain continued to fall.