Hurricane Joaquin gained strength Wednesday as it headed toward the Bahamas with powerful winds and torrential rain, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Meteorologists and public officials warned Wednesday that Hurricane Joaquin could be a major storm if and when it strikes the East Coast of the USA later this week.
Joaquin strengthened to a hurricane Wednesday morning, with maximum sustained winds near 75 miles per hour (120 kph).
At present, the storm is expected to continue moving to the southeast over the next day or so.
A strengthening storm system over the Tennessee Valley will combine with tropical moisture associated with Hurricane Joaquin and is forecast to bring heavy rain and flooding to the Triad.
More than 10,000 people live on the Bahamian islands most squarely in the storm’s path. Ten to 15 inches of rain could fall over much of the central Bahamas through Friday, with lesser amounts expected over the rest of the country, the center said.
Joaquin became a hurricane earlier Wednesday. Unrelated rain expected ahead of Hurricane Joaquin further complicates the situation.
A warning also was issued for a few more populous islands in the northwestern Bahamas, including Grand Bahama and New Providence, where the capital of Nassau is. By 8PM Wednesday, winds had picked up to 105 miles per hour, making it a Category 2 storm, and as of 11PM it cleared the Category 3 mark at 115 mph.
The latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center still points to a landfall somewhere between North Carolina and the New Jersey coast by the later part of this weekend. Regardless of the track of Joaquin, forecasters predict rain from the storm will be funneled into the eastern Carolinas beginning late Thursday, creating the potential for several days of torrential rainfall and flooding.
Even if the system gives Long Island a pass, the area could still see rainfall, winds, erosion and coastal flooding, forecasters say. A hurricane watch could be required for portions of the US coast as early as Thursday evening. The hurricane center said the storm appears likely to then take a sharp right turn and being moving north and west, which could bring it toward North Carolina. Residents on the East Coast should pay close attention to the forecast now through the weekend, Weather.com advised.