MIAMI – The Bahamas was bracing Wednesday for a brush with Hurricane Joaquin, which was on a projected track that would take it near the East Coast of the U.S. early next week.
The hurricane was expected to pass near the islands of San Salvador, Cat Island, Eleuthera and Rum Cay late Thursday and early Friday, close enough that it could bring tropical-storm-force winds, 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 small, lightly populated islands in the far east of the Bahamas.
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, but said it was too soon to say what areas would feel the effects of the storm.
"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.
Joaquin had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), extending outward up to 35 miles (55 kilometers) from the center. The Hurricane Center says additional strengthening is expected over the next two days.
The center of the storm early Wednesday was about 215 miles (345 kilometers) east-northeast of the central Bahamas and moving toward the southwest at 6 mph (9kmh).