Sometime in early winter 2012, there was a snowstorm coming. I got a text message at work from my neighbor, the man who manages the physical plant of the cooperative apartment building in which we both live. The forecast was uncertain, and he was concerned about how much snow would need to be shoveled outside the buildingMore
Hurricane Joaquin is continuing to puzzle forecasters. The storm, now spinning over the Bahamas, was upgraded Thursday afternoon to Category 4, with sustained winds of 130 mph. But where the storm is headed next is still uncertain.
The entirety of the Bahamas is under some type of watch or warning. The National Hurricane Center expects 10 to 15 inches of rain in some areas and a storm surge as high as 10 feet. Joaquin is moving slowly to the southwest and is expected to remain over the Bahamas at least through Friday.
That’s when the forecast gets tricky. The storm will turn north and begin moving faster. After that the models go in every direction, from hitting the coast of the Carolinas to spinning back out into the Atlantic. The most likely path for Joaquin is making landfall somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast.
The landfall is expected sometime this weekend, but the National Hurricane Center won’t issue any hurricane watches for the East Coast until Friday, when the storm’s path is more certain.
Current models show Joaquin strengthening slightly over the next day and then weakening as it moves north due to high wind shear. There’s a possibility it will drop down to a Category 1 by Sunday, though the models’ uncertainty is high and forecasters expect it may be stronger.
Even if Joaquin stays offshore, the heavy rains already along the East Coast are expected to spur some flooding. If Joaquin does make landfall in these same areas, the storm’s rains could bring more serious flooding due to the already-saturated ground.
The East Coast is also bracing for an unusual onshore wind event caused by an area of high pressure building over eastern Canada behind this week’s cold front. Beginning on Thursday, onshore winds are expected to remain above 20 mph for more than four days from North Carolina through New York. These winds could cause their own storm surge that would only be exacerbated by Joaquin’s arrival.
Despite the potential landfall being only days away, the range of possibilities is still wide. Forecasters say the East Coast should keep an eye on Joaquin as it develops and moves closer to the U.S. this weekend.