Chances Increasing Hurricane Joaquin Will Make East Coast Landfall

1 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Current weather pattern is notorious for Mid-Atlantic hurricane landfalls.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Steady rain drenched much of the East Coast on Wednesday, flooding roads, closing schools and forcing some people from their homes. 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. Steering winds high in the atmosphere will ultimately determine where Joaquin will track, and these winds are looking very similar to past cases of hurricane landfalls in the Mid-Atlantic.

Maximum sustained winds reached 85 mph (135 kph) and extended 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the center of the storm over the Atlantic Ocean, according to the U.S. Joaquin is forecast to gain strength as it churns north toward Florida — but its precise track remains unclear, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jay Engle. The rainstorms may soon be joined by Hurricane Joaquin in a powerful weather system that could linger for days and dump as much as 10 inches through early next week in some places.

State officials say a storm that moved through Tuesday and Wednesday dumped several inches of rain on much of New York and could cause minor to moderate localized flooding in many areas. Some forecast models show the storm swerving westward over the weekend and making landfall along the already-soggy Eastern Seaboard by Monday or Tuesday. The deluge has the potential to saturate the ground so heavily that trees topple onto power lines even without heavy winds. “The bottom line is: We are expecting very heavy rains all the way from the Carolinas up into new England,” said Bruce Terry, lead forecaster for the government’s Weather Prediction Center. Authorities in the Bahamas prepared for a brush with the storm, with the center expected to pass near several eastern islands before heading northwest. Forecasters were still gathering data to determine how it would affect the U.S. “We’ve got Air Force reconnaissance planes continuously giving us data from inside the hurricane this morning, and we’re going to be throwing a lot more aircraft resources at this problem over the next few days because it still is not certain whether or not Joaquin will directly impact the U.S.

The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said in a briefing on Wednesday that President Obama was briefed about preparations that were under way for the possible landfall of Hurricane Joaquin. “That seems particularly important today for those of us that live in the mid-Atlantic,” he said. The islands of the eastern Bahamas have relatively small populations, fewer than 1,000 on San Salvador, but they are vulnerable in a storm since most of the people live along the shoreline in modest homes. On Eleuthera, a narrow strip to the north of Cat Island, people were removing stray coconuts and other debris from their yards and putting up storm shutters in blustery winds, said Chris Gosling, who runs a volunteer ambulance service on the island. Naglic said the storm was expected to strengthen, though an area of low pressure, or trough, could force it to turn north, which would mean that it would start veering toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. To the west in Elliston, 74-year-old Wendell Johns said floodwaters inundated his yard and left behind garbage and mud, but didn’t make it into his trailer.

Hurricane Hazel devastated the Carolinas as it barreled inland on Oct. 14, 1954, and then went on as a non-tropical storm to deliver hurricane-force winds to Toronto. If one of the forecasting models holds, the hurricane could make landfall in the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia region on Monday, delivering heavy rain and possibly flooding.

With water rising, he went Tuesday to stay at his sister’s house after gathering what personal items he could carry, including an oxygen tank to help him breathe. The current thinking, he said, is that Hurricane Joaquin’s winds will increase to 100 m.p.h. over 72 hours, making it a Category 2 hurricane, which is still a minimal one.

If it comes, it comes and you do what you can,” said Gosling, who has lived on Eleuthera for 27 years. “If the forecast is right we will get some wind and rain and it will go back out to sea.” Forecasters expected the storm to drop about 3-5 inches (8-13 centimeters) in the central Bahamas, including Long Island and Exuma. Hurricane Sandy was a Category 3 hurricane when it initially made landfall in Cuba in October 2012 but was a post-tropical cyclone by the time it reached New Jersey.

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. The effects are projected to be minimal on New Providence, which includes the capital of Nassau, with scattered showers and thunderstorms. “Residents of the Carolinas north should be paying attention and monitoring the storm. Some roads were closed Wednesday in Guilford County, and emergency medical service Director Don Campbell said he feared that more rain expected through the weekend would topple trees and knock out power.

Eric Webb, a student at North Carolina State University, created a graphic to illustrate the mid-level steering flow for 13 tropical storms that impacted the Mid-Atlantic since 1900. College student Krystal Diaz said her commute by bus to downtown Providence from nearby Johnston had been especially long because of poor visibility and heavy traffic. Associated Press video journalist Tony Winton in Miami and AP writers Martha Waggoner in Raleigh and Amy Anthony in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report. Additional weather balloon launches in the Eastern U.S., are currently being conducted, along with a synoptic aircraft reconnaissance mission from NOAA.

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