Hurricane Joaquin, the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season is setting its sights on the East Coast of the United States. The massive system is now over the central Bahama islands and has been upgraded from a Category 2 storm to a Category 3. On Wednesday evening, Joaquin was lashing the Bahamas with 115 mile per hour winds that extended 35 miles out from the eye of the storm.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicts that Joaquin will make landfall in the United States along the East Coast sometime over the next few days. If the NHC is correct, Joaquin may batter the Mid-Atlantic coastline with heavy downpours of rain, high winds and potentially deadly flooding. Once the system passes northeast of the Bahamas Thursday, it is expected to turn north and parallel to the East Coast on Friday and Saturday. The hurricane may bring pounding surf, hazardous seas, high winds, drenching rain and flooding if it does make landfall. Wind gusts could be over 75 miles per hour if the system stays on course and intensifies.
Many forecasters believe that Joaquin will be headed in a western direction this weekend and that it may make landfall somewhere between N. Carolina and the southern portion of New Jersey on Sunday. If the system does track into northern North Carolina, it could cause significant flooding there as well as the Washington DC and Baltimore areas. The NHC is telling people living along the East Coast to be prepared for the hurricane.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Bahamas as the giant storm system is centered over the central islands there. Regardless of what track Joaquin takes as it nears the United States, it is almost certain that the storm will deliver dangerous amounts of rain over the eastern US from the Carolinas to Maine. An excess of 6 inches of rain could fall over that region from Thursday to Friday with as much as 10 inches coming down in some areas like Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
There are already coastal flood watches in effect for many portions of the eastern seaboard. Even though there are some scenarios that would take the hurricane out to sea, the possibility of it reaching the eastern part of the US is gaining merit. This Category 3 hurricane is rapidly intensifying and is being expected to become a Category 4 storm late Thursday. Terry McAuliffe, governor of Virginia, has already issued a state of emergency for his state in response the the recent flooding that has happened there and to prepare for Joaquin. Governors in other East Coast states are keeping a close eye on forecast models to determine if they too should issue state of emergency warnings.