Joaquin strengthens, becoming an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm

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MIAMI – Joaquin has intensified to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday afternoon.

Forecasters say Hurricane Joaquin will batter the central Bahamas with wind and rain through Thursday night, bringing a significant storm surge and dangerous surf.

Early Thursday, Joaquin was about 20 miles north of Samana Cays, Bahamas, and 65 miles southeast of San Salvador, Bahamas. The Category 4 storm has maximum sustained winds of 120 mph and is moving west-southwest at 5 mph.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami says a hurricane warning is in effect for the central and northwestern Bahamas. A hurricane watch is in effect for Bimini and Andros Island. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the southeastern Bahamas.

Joaquin, already considered a major hurricane, is expected to strengthen over the next day or two. Forecasters say some fluctuations in intensity are possible Friday.

Governors up and down the East Coast are warning residents to prepare for drenching storms that could cause power outages and close more roads in a region already walloped by rain.

Recent downpours have forced people from their homes and closed schools, and forecasters are calling for several more inches of rain in coming days — regardless of what happens with Hurricane Joaquin, which is spinning off the coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says depending on its path, Joaquin could intensify the storms’ damage.

Governor Dan Malloy said that his office and state emergency management officials are monitoring the hurricane.

“While there are many variables with this storm, we are paying close attention to its track,” Governor Malloy said.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the Central Bahamas, including Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador; and the Northwestern Bahamas, including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence.

Forecasters say hurricane conditions are expected to reach portions of the central Bahamas in the next few hours. That area could see total rain accumulations of 10 to 15 inches because of the storm.