NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Powerful Hurricane Joaquin bore down Thursday on the lightly populated islands of the central and eastern Bahamas, and forecasters said it could grow more intense while following a path that would near the U.S. East Coast by the weekend.
Posted at 12:37 PM, Oct 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-01 12:37:49-04
Some minor flooding and storm surge were reported, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or significant damage as the storm reached the island chain, said Capt. Stephen Russell, the director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.
Islands such as San Salvador, Cat Island and Rum Cay were expected to be hit hardest before the storm begins an expected shift toward the north, forecasters said.
"Everyone is just trying to get their stuff battened down," said Frances Missick, chief councilor of Rum Cay, which has a population of about 100 and 40 homes.
Missick and other people on the small island gathered in a shelter set up at the St. Christopher Anglican Church. As of Thursday, there was only some minor flooding and power and water were still running.
Flooding was reported across parts of Long Island, but no one had been injured, said Parliament member Loretta Butler Turner.
"We will have to wait for the winds to die down before we can go out and really assess the damage," she said.
Joaquin was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph) and hurricane strength winds extending 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the eye, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was passing over the uninhabited Samana Cays, Bahamas, and was moving west-southwest at 6 mph (9 kph).
The storm was predicted to turn to the north and northwest toward the United States on Friday, but forecasters were still gathering data to determine how it might affect the U.S. East Coast, which was already suffering flooding and heavy rains from separate storms.
"There's still a distinct possibility that his could make landfall somewhere in the U.S.," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and hurricane center spokesman.
On Eleuthera, a narrow strip to the north of Cat Island, people removed stray coconuts and other debris from their yards and put up storm shutters in blustery winds, said Chris Gosling, who runs a volunteer ambulance service on the island. Islanders have learned from past storms not to take chances.
"People don't panic too much. There's nothing you can do about it. 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."
The Hurricane Center said parts of the Bahamas could see storm surge raising sea levels 5 to 10 feet (as much as 3 meters) above normal, with 10 to 15 inches (250 to 380 millimeters) of rain falling on the central Bahamas.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center's long-term forecast showed the storm could near the U.S. East Coast along North Carolina and Virginia on Sunday or Monday.
"Residents of the Carolinas north should be paying attention and monitoring the storm. There's no question," said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist with the center. "If your hurricane plans got a little dusty because of the light hurricane season, now is a good time to update them."
Associated Press writers Tony Winton in Miami and Ava Turnquest in Nassau contributed to this report.
Associated Press 2015