PHILADELPHIA (WTXF/AP)- Hurricane Joaquin has now become an 'extremely dangerous' Category 4, says the U.S. Hurricane Center. According to the latest track, the storm is expected to remain in the Bahamas for the next day or so.
With new newest track projections, the effects of the storm would not reach the greater Philadelphia area until late Monday or early Tuesday. It could however, reach the area as soon as Sunday.
By the time it reaches our area, Joaquin is expected to be downgraded back to a Tropical Storm, bringing lots of rain and high winds.
As of Thursday morning, spaghetti models appear to indicate the storm could stay east and run parallel to the coastline by the time it reaches our area. Of course, that path could change by a wide margin in either direction.
Thursday afternoon, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm as it is expected to bring heavy rain and flooding.
Christie says that he and his administration are better prepared to deal with this weekend's storm because of Superstorm Sandy.
The hurricane was expected to pass near the islands of San Salvador, Cat Island, Eleuthera and Rum Cay late Thursday and Friday, close enough that it could bring tropical-storm-force winds, storm surges, coastal flooding and 5-10 inches (13-25 centimeters) of rain, said Geoffrey Greene, a senior forecaster with the Bahamas Meteorology Department.
"We would be very concerned about them," Greene said of the eastern islands.
The center of the storm was expected to be closest to land in the Bahamas about 2 p.m. Thursday, passing east of San Salvador, Greene said.
Schools were ordered closed as of noon Wednesday in pasts of the eastern and central Bahamas.
Forecasters expected the storm to drop about 3-5 inches (8-13 centimeters) in the central Bahamas, including Long Island and Exuma. The effects are projected to be minimal on New Providence, which includes the capital of Nassau, with scattered showers and thunderstorms.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center long-term forecast showed the storm could near the U.S. East Coast above North Carolina early next week.
"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."
Thursday morning, the center of the storm was about 20 miles (305 kilometers) North of the Samana Cays Bahamas and moving west-southwest at 5 mph.