Amid confusion over path, hurricane Joaquin gathers steam

Hurricane Joaquin:The National Hurricane Center is now classifying Joaquin as the third hurricane of the 2015 season. It could hit the mid-Atlantic states by this weekend. 

Tropical Storm Joaquin is seen approaching the Bahamas in this NOAA Goes-East satellite image taken Tuesday. Joaquin strengthened east of the Bahamas on Tuesday and is expected to make a sharp northerly turn in the next few days taking it parallel to the US east coast, forecasters said. The storm is forecast to strengthen over the next few days and could threaten the Carolinas at the weekend with heavy rain and 70 miles per hour winds, just below hurricane force, according to the National Hurricane Center.

First, Joaquin was a tropical storm headed for the east coast, the National Hurricane Center reported Tuesday morning.

The NHC believed that tropical storm Joaquin was moving westward at 5 mph with wind speeds extending 70 miles from the storm’s center. The NHC warned that its wind speed predictions for Joaquin were conservative and that “the guidance suggests that Joaquin could become a hurricane in a few days.” 

Then, Tuesday evening, the NHC confirmed that Joaquin strengthened and would become a Category One hurricane Wednesday.

The NHC is supporting their last prediction Wednesday morning, confirming that Joaquin has strengthened into the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic season. Now a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 75 miles per hour, Joaquin is located 245 miles northeast of the central Bahamas.  

The only other two hurricanes to have formed, Danny and Fred, both petered out while still far out at sea.

Experts disagree about when, and even if, Joaquin will make landfall on the Eastern Seaboard. As of 8 am Wednesday morning, the NHC predicts that Joaquin will hit the mid-Atlantic coast, including the major cities of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York, within the next three days.

If Joaquin continues building steam, the mid-Atlantic could face winds as strong as 100 mph and torrential rains.

“It could be a significant situation,” Brian Fortier, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel told NBC News. “Everyone along the Northeast coast, right up to New England, should keep a close eye on the forecasts."

But even before Joaquin arrives on the East Coast, an area between Maine and North Carolina was already set for a rainy forecast Tuesday night and moving into Wednesday. And heavy rainfall over New England over the next few days could increase Joaquin’s potential to cause flooding if it comes ashore, forecasters at Weather Underground have said.

Warm water could also help the storm intensify rapidly, and as Joaquin moves towards the Bahamas it “will be passing over ocean temperatures near 86 degrees Fahrenheit – the warmest seen there since record keeping began in 1880,” says meteorologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson with Weather Underground. 

This report contains material from Reuters.

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