Joaquin’s hurricane-force winds, which extended 50 miles (80 km) from its center, were forecast to miss the larger Bahamas islands and the main cities and cruise ship ports of Freeport and Nassau. The ship went missing when Joaquin was a Category 4 storm.
The crew of the U.S.-flagged ship-28 US citizens and five Polish nationals-told officials that its engine was disabled, and it was taking on water and listing to the side at an angle of 15 degrees.
By 2 p.m. ET, the storm’s eye had passed over the Bahamas’ uninhabited Samana Cay and was churning within miles of inhabited islands.
Two Air Force C-130 Hurricane Hunter aircrews attempted to locate and reestablish communications with the El Faro unsuccessfully Thursday.
The US Coast Guard said it was searching for a cargo ship with 33 people on board on Friday night after it went missing during Hurricane Joaquin.
Ten to 20 inches of rain could fall over much of the central Bahamas through Friday, according to the hurricane center.
In the Bahamas, Joaquin maintained its leisurely pace, blasting the islands with ferocious wind, rain and surf. He’s seen firsthand from 2011’s Hurricane Irene that the heavy rains from a huge tropical system like this can have devastating effects far from the coast. There had been no reports of fatalities or injuries, said Capt Stephen Russell, the director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.
“There was a lot going on in the atmosphere in general”, said AccuWeather Meteorologist Ben Noll in a blog this morning.
After battering the Bahamas for more than two days, the center of Joaquin was churning away from the island chain and was expected to pass just west of Bermuda, well off the USA coastline, on Sunday, the NHC said.
As for the rainstorm in the U.S., its fatal unpredictability was shown when a Thursday morning downpour dumped 4 inches on Spartanburg, South Carolina, causing flash floods that submerged several cars. The storm is moving to Southwest at 5 miles per hour with a very low minimum pressure of 931 mb.
But accumulated rainfall in the Carolinas from unrelated storms this week coupled with more on the way from Joaquin prompted a warning from the National Weather Service about a “historic, potentially life-threatening rainfall event”.
At time of its departure on Tuesday, the ship’s officers were monitoring what was then Tropical Storm Joaquin, said Tim Nolan, president of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, which owns the vessel.
The last message the Coast Guard receive from the El Faro said that the ship was beset by Joaquin and had taken on water, but had since contained the flooding.
Storm surges will push water as high as 1.5 to 3 metres above normal tide levels in the central Bahamas, the NHC said, with up to 51 cm of rain possible in a few areas.