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Millions Along East Coast Urged to Take Joaquin Seriously Despite Offshore Track

While Hurricane Joaquin is no longer expected to make a landfall in the United States, AccuWeather meteorologists warn that the risk to lives and property remains high despite the shift in track of the storm.

Despite the uncertainty of the storm's final destination, state officials in the affected regions are taking no chances. A state of emergency has been declared in Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland and more could follow suit. Governors and emergency responders in those states are urging caution.

Still, many residents prepare on their own terms, aggregating the various messages to dictate their own storm plan.

Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer Reports From New Jersey Ahead of Hurricane Joaquin

The decisions to leave and move away from home can be a difficult one, even if it means finding shelter, according to Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

People's emotional attachment to their homes can make them hesitant to evacuate even in the eyes of what seems to be a rational reason to evacuate, Klapow said.

"People attach a piece of their identity to their homes. They have memories there. They have emotions that are tied up in their homes," he said.

The uncertainty of a forecast and how a storm will play out can also impact a person's decision-making and people will have different interpretations of that uncertainty, Klapow said.

Some people who are very risk-averse will look at the storm and, thinking there's a chance it could impact their area, start to take steps to prepare. Meanwhile, others could view the same situation and interpret almost the opposite and feel like since the storm may not hit their region and that there's nothing to worry about, he explained.

From the moment Joaquin formed, uncertainty clouded the conversation of the storm's ultimate track.

"There was a lot going on in the atmosphere in general," AccuWeather Meteorologist Ben Noll said.

For one exact track to play out, every piece of a complicated puzzle has to fall right into place, he said.

"And once a system becomes a Category 4, it starts creating its own conditions, which ends up adding another element into the mix."

While no mandatory evacuations have been put in place, state and local officials have been working to keep residents safe since early in the week.

North Carolina Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry said state officials are preparing for widespread flooding in areas across the state.

East Coast Prepares for Hurricane Joaquin

"Regardless of the impacts of Hurricane Joaquin, North Carolina has the potential for life-threatening flooding," Perry said in a statement. "We want everyone to remember to ‘Turn around, don't drown.'"

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie urged his constituents to "prepare and not panic" and promised to keep everybody informed. New Jersey officials and residents are still grappling with the painful memories of Superstorm Sandy which struck three years ago this month, a fact Christie acknowledged in his address as even more reason to be prepared.

"One, there's nothing we can do to control it, and worrying and stressing about it will not change the path of the storm, Christie said. "Secondly, you need to know that the state is prepared to deal with whatever we need to deal with depending upon the path of the storm."

The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 800 additional soldiers, airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force on state active duty for response operations.

Lt. Col. Douglas Gagnon, deputy director of joint operations for the Virginia Guard, said in a statement that it is critical "to stage personnel and equipment before the severe weather hits so they are able to rapidly respond when needed."


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne at Kevin.Byrne@accuweather.com, follow him on Twitter at @Accu_Kevin. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.