Hurricane Joaquin now a Cat 4 storm

Hurricane Joaquin now a Cat 4 storm
Hurricane Joaquin

WDAM - Hurricane Joaquin, a category 4 storm, is bearing down on the Bahamas. It is the first major Hurricane to hit the Bahamas in October in more than 30 years.

Now it has people on the East Coast concerned. The National Hurricane Center forecast shows Joaquin abruptly turning north due to getting caught in the strong steering winds of the atmosphere. Forecasters at the NHC are concerned that the northerly shift may allow Joaquin to graze the east coast. Or worse, as some computer weather models have suggested, strike the US anywhere from Charleston to Boston.

"The most difficult part of this forecast is the complexity and that most of our models haven't done a good job cutting through that complexity," WDAM Chief Meteorologist Nick Lila said. "Most of the National Weather Service offices are launching extra weather balloons to help the computer models figure this out, but so far, it hasn't helped very much. The scientists at the National Hurricane Center are really smart, though, if anyone can cut through the confusion - it is them."

Many sections of the East Coast are already dealing with heavy rains not associated with Joaquin. If the Category 4 storm was to make landfall, it would add wind and more rain to the already saturated ground. This would make it easier to topple trees, power lines and increase the threat of flooding emergencies.

If you have travel plans to the east coast, you may want to think again.

"Regardless of what is going to happen," WDAM Weekend Meteorologist Patrick Bigbie said. "Whatever you can do to limit your impacts, do it. And just be weather aware once you get there."

In the National Hurricane's Center forecast discussion for Joaquin, forecasters said the storm may run into shear during the next three days, which would cause the storm to weaken and head toward the Mid-Atlantic coast by days four and five.

The forecast track remained uncertain, the NHC cautioned, leaving it unclear whether the storm will make landfall in the U.S. or stay out to sea.

The main danger of Joaquin is rainfall so far, with 5 to 10 inches of rain expected in some areas of the central Bahamas, and as much as 20 inches possible in some spots.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Wednesday as the state responded to flooding and prepared for more dangerous weather."I cannot stress enough the imperative for Virginians to focus on the rainstorms that are headed our way tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday, well before Hurricane Joaquin could potentially impact Virginia," he said.

Joaquin, the 10th named storm of the season, formed off the Atlantic coast on Monday. Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30.