MIAMI — It’s October. A powerful hurricane is brewing in the Bahamas. The whole system is threatening to head straight north to the U.S.
You can’t blame the people along the East Coast if they’re having a Sandy flashback when it comes to Hurricane Joaquin.
The powerful tropical system became a major hurricane overnight. And over the next day, the Category 3 storm will only get stronger.
The good news: If current projections hold, Joaquin won’t be another Sandy.
The not-so-good news: Hurricane projections are notoriously unpredictable.
Where it will make landfall
It was just three years ago this month that Superstorm Sandy slammed the northeastern United States, devastating parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The current track of Joaquin puts it hauntingly close where Sandy made landfall in 2015.
But the projected path of the system has already changed multiple times and could change again.
And should Joaquin make it back to the areas Sandy devastated before, it’s not expected to pack the same punch.
How bad it’s likely to be
When Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, it had hurricane-force winds. Joaquin is projected to be a tropical storm once it gets that far north.
The rain? Now that’s a different story.
No matter where Joaquin goes, the storm is expected to bring significant rainfall to the East Coast, where some states already were dealing with flood threats from separate systems this week.
“There is so much tropical moisture, we will get 10 inches of rainfall in the Mid-Atlantic (in the next seven days) — and that’s with a miss,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “If we get a hit … that number may double.”
Large portions of the Eastern Seaboard from South Carolina to Maine were under flood watches and warnings.
Flooding made some streets impassable in Portland, Maine. Several cars were stalled on one street there after their drivers tried to drive through standing water, CNN affiliate WMTW reported.
How communities are getting ready
Coastal communities prepared ahead Joaquin’s expected weekend visit.
“The ground gets saturated, trees come down, there can be a lot of different issues,” Paula Miller with the Virginia Department of Transportation told CNN affiliate WAVY. “If the ground is so saturated that trees start coming down in the roadways, obviously that’s going to be one of the things that we’re going to be prepared to respond to.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
In eastern Pennsylvania, folks were taking the threat just as seriously. The Poconos took a beating during Sandy.
“What we’re expecting here is to be on alert for flash floods as well as power outages, and so we’re trying to get the word out to the community to think ahead, to have a plan,” Michele Baehr with the Red Cross told affiliate WNEP.
Dwyane Francis of Bushkill stocked up on canned goods.
“Preparation is the key. You have to be prepared for everything,” Francis said.
Yet, some found humor in the hurricane called Joaquin.
Doug Mataconis tweeted a tracking map featuring the head of actor Joaquin Phoenix during different phases of his career.
Where it is now
For the next couple of days, though, Joaquin will be meandering near the Bahamas before heading north.
Early Thursday, the storm was churning up the seas with its 120 mph winds about 20 miles north of Samana Cays.
More than 10,000 people live on the Bahamian islands most squarely in the storm’s path. Ten to 15 inches of rain could fall over much of the central Bahamas through Friday.
Rain and winds aren’t the only concerns: Dangerous storm surges — with water levels as high as 3 to 5 feet above normal tides — are possible on the Bahamian coasts.
Swells from Joaquin also will affect the southeastern U.S. coast by Thursday, potentially creating life-threatening rip currents, the hurricane center said.