Hurricane Joaquin prepares to slam the Bahamas today, but the storm is intensifying and could still pose a threat to the eastern United States coast within the next few days. The category 3 storm has been building steadily as wind speeds increase and the overall pace of the storm quickens. Residents up and down the East coast are watching closely, as the storm could shift its path in the coming days and potentially hit American soil much farther north than originally thought, leading some to draw up memories of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Northeast just three years ago.

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As it travels across the Atlantic, the storm continues to grow in strength. Current windspeeds of 120mph demarcate Joaquin as a category 3 hurricane, but the winds are intensifying. If winds reach 140mph, the storm will be elevated to category 4. The National Weather Service is reporting that could take place sometime Friday morning.

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So far, the storm has been traveling in a mostly west-southwest direction across the Bahamas, but it’s expected to take a northerly turn today and head up the East coast. Based on the storm’s current trajectory, heavy rains are expected throughout the southeastern states, with the biggest impact likely in South Carolina where up to 12 inches of rain are forecasted for the weekend.

Determining the future path of a strong hurricane is tricky, and the storms are often downright unpredictable. Although Joaquin could hit land, it’s also possible that the storm could turn away from the coast and head back out to sea, drawing a dramatic arc from its starting point.

With two months still left in this year’s hurricane season, only time will tell what the the 10th named storm of the season will have in store for the East coast.

+ National Weather Service

Images via NOAA