Joaquin Becomes a Hurricane as Winds, Rain Approach Bahamas

  • Hurricane winds could reach islands in the chain Thursday
  • Forecasters still struggling to gauge threat to U.S.

Storm Joaquin grew into a Category 1 hurricane as it bore down on the Bahamas, where warnings and watches are posted for the central and northwestern islands in the chain. 

The storm’s top winds now reach 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour, just above the threshold for a hurricane, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was about 245 miles east-northeast of the central Bahamas, moving southwest at 6 mph, according to an 8 a.m. advisory from the Miami-based center.

“Hurricane conditions are expected to reach portions of the Central Bahamas by Thursday,” Jack Beven, a senior hurricane specialist., said in the advisory. “Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”

Joaquin, the 10th storm of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season, could drop as much as 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain across much of the Central Bahamas, with Rum Cay and San Salvador possibly receiving 10. In addition, Joaquin’s storm surge is expected to raise water levels 2 to 4 feet above normal. The surge “will be accompanied by large and dangerous waves,” the advisory said.

Islands Threatened

Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador can expect to experience hurricane-force winds within the next 36 hours. The storm may later hit the northwestern Bahamas, including Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.

Forecasters are also trying to gauge the threat to the U.S. While there is little confidence in the long-term track, hurricane center maps show the storm off the Virginia coast by Monday.

The problem facing meteorologists is that computer forecast models cannot agree on where the storm will go. The U.S. is currently being raked by a number of large weather patterns that are bringing soaking rains to the Northeast.

“Given that a wide range of outcomes is possible, it is too soon to say what the impacts, if any, Joaquin will have on the United States,” senior hurricane specialist Michael Brennan wrote in an analysis at 5 a.m.

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