Georgia and the Carolinas braced for Hurricane Joaquin Thursday night and this morning and, even though the Category 4 storm is not expected to make landfall in the United States, it is predicted to impact the East Coast from South Carolina to Massachusetts.
Governors in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and North Carolina issued a state of emergency, according to Accuweather. Other states may follow suit.
The Virginia National Guard was authorized to bring 800 personnel to help with response operations.
Joaquin strengthened significantly Thursday and continues to hover near the Bahamas. The delay has altered the forecast track. Other weather systems affecting Joaquin will be in slightly different positions as a result.
Joaquin is drifting toward the northwest near 3 mph. A faster northward motion is expected to begin later today, followed by a turn toward the northeast and an increase in forward speed tonight and Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Maximum sustained winds are near 130 mph, with higher gusts. Slow weakening is expected to begin on Saturday.
Joaquin will move northward much of this weekend, roughly paralleling the East Coast, according to Accuweather. There is now a much lower possibility of a landfall along the Mid-Atlantic coast and a greater chance the storm will veer out to sea.
Areas from the Mid-Atlantic to the central Appalachians and the Carolinas appear to be the epicenter for the heaviest rainfall amounts, according to The Weather Channel. Totals could exceed 5 inches in many locations, with some areas having the potential to see a foot of rain.
The U.S. Coast Guard advised swimmers, beachgoers and mariners to exercise “extreme caution” while at beaches off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina because of the increased possibility of rip currents caused by Hurricane Joaquin.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that South Carolina and Florida account for 19 of the 34 nationwide rip current deaths so far in 2015.
The Coast Guard also urged mariners in southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island to prepare for heavy weather.
In the coastal communities that Hurricane Sandy devastated three years ago this month, the prospect of another hurricane roaring up the Eastern Seaboard dredged up mounds of anxiety on Thursday.
Hurricane Joaquin had not yet passed the Bahamas and its path was far from certain, but the National Hurricane Center upgraded it to an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, said The New York Times in a report. Governors had already declared states of emergency in New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia and warned residents of counties near the coast to prepare for flooding, strong winds and power failures.