RALEIGH (AP)— Scotland County residents should prepare themselves for flooding as several weather systems converge on North Carolina and Hurricane Joaquin lurks in the Atlantic Ocean, Gov. Pat McCrory said.
Hurricane Joaquin, already a Category 3 storm, strengthened overnight today as it churned through the Bahamas but forecasters are still uncertain whether it will make a weekend landfall somewhere along the U.S. East Coast.
The storm, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 120 mph, was bearing down on Central Bahamas, with hurricane strength winds stretching as far as 35 miles form the eye early Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
As of 5 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was about 20 miles north of Samana Cays, Bahamas, and moving west-southwest at 5 mph.
Forecasters remained divided on whether Joaquin will touch land along the East Coast, although it is expected to strengthen into a Category 4 storm late Thursday, according to AccuWeather.com.
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.
“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,the Associated Press reports. “If your hurricane plans got a little dusty because of the light hurricane season, now is a good time to update them.”
McCrory issued a statement noting that the ground is saturated in many places from the past week’s rains, and that the combination of wind and any additional rain from Joaquin could lead to downed trees and cause power outages across the state.
The governor urged people to download the ReadyNC app to get the latest information on weather, flooding, traffic and shelters.
Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry said emergency management officials are coordinating with local officials to ensure they have what they need.
“We can expect flooding in poor-drainage spots and low-lying areas,” State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said. “Regardless of the impact of Hurricane Joaquin, North Carolina has the potential for life-threatening flooding within the next week. We don’t know yet how much or how widespread the flooding will be, but we know there will be flooding.”
The National Weather Service in Raleigh says a large swath of the state starting west of Raleigh and stretching to the coast could get between 7 and 10 inches of rain through Monday.
Weather service meteorologist Nick Petro stressed that the rainfall amounts will vary depending on the behavior of the weather systems. He also said the state can expect to be drenched regardless of Joaquin’s behavior.
“Folks need to really understand that there’s a risk of heavy rain and flooding regardless of Joaquin’s track,” he said.