Hurricane Joaquin began slowly drifting toward the northwest on Friday morning but continued to pound Long Island and other Bahamas cays for a second day with 130 mph winds.
At 5 a.m. Friday, the National Hurricane Center said Joaquin was starting an expected change of course that appeared increasingly likely to steer the dangerous Category 4 storm away from the Carolinas and the heavily populated New Jersey-New York area, which had been devastated by Superstorm Sandy. The latest track threatens Bermuda but would keep the massive storm well offshore of the East Coast as it slowly weakens to a Category 1 then tropical storm by midweek.
But forecasters cautioned that the track could still shift over the next few days. And much of the coast could see impacts — particularly from heavy rains that could produce widespread, serious flooding in some coastal states.
“There is still uncertainty in how close Joaquin could come to Bermuda, extreme southeastern New England/Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia during the next several days, and interests in those areas should continue to monitor the progress of the hurricane,’’ forecasters said in the advisory.
In the Bahamas, there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths but the prolonged pounding was likely to increase damage. Reports were sketchy, but on Long Island — at the edge of Joaquin’s powerful eyewall Thursday evening — homes and streets were flooded from storm surge and on Acklins Island just to the south, flooding was so bad that most of the nearly 600 residents couldn’t get out of their homes. Joaquin wasn’t expected to pull away from the Bahamas until later Friday evening.
“They are under the gun,” said Capt. Stephen Russell, director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.
The powerful storm was expected to generate a potentially deadly storm surge, increased from earlier advisories to five to 10 feet, that could unleash life-threatening flash floods, forecasters said. Near shore, the storm could kick up lethal waves. The wet storm is also expected to dump between 10 and 15 inches of rain over the region, with up to 20 inches possible in some areas.
Photos posted on social media Thursday as Joaquin was still approaching showed several feet of water surrounding homes on Long Island, home to a few thousand people on the eastern edge of the central Bahamas.
SOURCE: JENNY STALETOVICH AND JACQUELINE CHARLES
The Miami Herald