Hurricane Joaquin reached category 4 strength on Thursday afternoon, becoming 2015’s first cat 4 hurricane in the Atlantic.
The official forecast track brings the hurricane into or the Bahamas on Thursday and then starts to move northward by Friday and Saturday.
Thursday morning, the storm already was whipping Bahamian territory with hurricane-force winds, with the eye about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the country’s Samana Cays.
Joaquin is producing winds of 210 km/h and moving southwestward at 9 km/h.
“We still don’t know where Joaquin will go next”, Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at today’s new conference.
Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency in New Jersey, as have governors in North Carolina and Virginia.
Even though Joaquin is now unlikely to make landfall in the US, Accuweather’s Sosnowski said, “People should not let their guard down due to a shifting track of the hurricane as the risk to lives and property in this complex situation remains high”.
Florida is not in the hurricane center’s cone of uncertainty or under a hurricane watch or warning despite Joaquin’s location in the Bahamas.
“Joaquin has the potential to be a very significant storm for the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states”. Forecasters still estimate that Joaquin will make a rapid northward turn within the next 12 to 24 hours, but still say that confidence in models farther than 72 hours away. “Tropical storm conditions will affect other portions of the southeastern Bahamas through tonight”.
“Residents of the Carolinas north should be paying attention and monitoring the storm”. After the turn, it will speed up as it skims the east coast on a path that moved it more out to sea than previous tracks.
Hurricane Joaquin has brought heavy rains and winds to parts of the Bahamas after it was reclassified up to the second strongest type of storm.
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. “There’s no question”, said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist with the center.
President Obama was briefed about federal preparations for Joaquin in case it hits the East Coast, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.