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Hurricane Joaquin Churns In Atlantic, Could Threaten Eastern Seaboard

A forecast track for Hurricane Joaquin from the National Hurricane Center.
National Hurricane Center
A forecast track for Hurricane Joaquin from the National Hurricane Center.

Updated 6:05 p.m. ET

Joaquin, the fourth hurricane of the Atlantic Season, is forecast to churn off the coast of Florida for the next couple of days before potentially heading north and posing a threat to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

With maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, Joaquin became a hurricane today. The storm's long-term path is still uncertain, but forecasters predict the tropical cyclone could pose a threat to the Mid-Atlantic or New England states.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in preparation for major rainstorms this week and the potential impact of Joaquin early next week. The statement read:

"The Executive Order, which operates retroactively to Tuesday, September 29th, allows Virginia state and local emergency responders to begin to prepare for the effects of the 8-10 inches of rain forecast across the Commonwealth Thursday and Friday, as well as the potential that Hurricane Joaquin will impact Virginia early next week."

Here's a forecast map from the National Hurricane Center:

And here is the big caveat from the Hurricane Center about that forecast:

"Confidence in the details of the track forecast late in the period remains low, since the environmental steering currents are complex and the model guidance is inconsistent. A wide range of outcomes is possible, from a direct impact of a major hurricane along the U.S. east coast to a track of Joaquin out to sea away from the coast. It is therefore way too soon to talk about specific wind, rain, or surge impacts from Joaquin in the U.S."

Bottom line, if you're along the Eastern Seaboard, keep one eye on Joaquin, as the Hurricane Center could issue hurricane watches as early as Thursday evening.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.