According to NBC News, East Coast states are alerting residents to prepare as potentially historic rainfall and flooding is set to wreak havoc into the weekend — whether or not Hurricane Joaquin, which was upgraded to an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm on Thursday afternoon, makes U.S. landfall.
Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey were the latest to declare a state of emergency, warning residents that the severe weather already predicted could be significantly worse if Joaquin veers northwestward.
It was packing 130 mph winds as it battered the central Bahamas, moving about 6 mph as of 2 p.m. ET
“We are not quite sure if this is going to be a single punch or a double punch,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters Thursday.
But no matter which way Joaquin heads, an area of low pressure in the Southeast and a front stalled over the East Coast will pull moisture from the Atlantic Ocean, causing rain Thursday through at least Saturday, said Bruce Terry, lead forecaster for the government’s Weather Prediction Center. The National Weather Service predicts as much as 10 inches for some areas.
Different forecast models predict Joaquin will either ram into Virginia, Maryland or North Carolina this weekend, or avoid the East Coast entirely as it takes a more easterly track up the Atlantic. Overnight, the American model trended toward the European model in predicting that the storm would not make landfall in the United States.
Still, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia appear in line to be soaked by a separate storm pulling tropical air into the region. Between 10 and 15 inches of rain has been forecast over a 72-hour period from Friday through Sunday — with as much as 20 inches in some places. Parts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey are also expected to be drenched this weekend.
Heavy rain was already falling late Wednesday, and at least one person died in flash floods in Spartanburg, officials said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, while North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory ordered state agencies to prepare for flooding. He also declared a state of emergency on Thursday.
“I cannot stress enough the imperative for Virginians to focus on the rainstorms that are headed our way [Thursday] and Friday, well before Hurricane Joaquin could potentially impact Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “The forecast of up to 10 inches of rain in areas across Virginia could result in floods, power outages and a serious threat to life and property.”
In Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, officials were hoping sandbags protect the town if the hurricane strikes the Outer Banks. “It could be some resemblance of what Sandy [in 2012] offered us, and we’ve learned some lessons from that,” Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary Perry told NBC affiliate WAVY.
Gov. Christie on Thursday also declared a state of emergency in New Jersey, warning that he will order evacuations if necessary.