Update at 11:45 a.m. ET
The National Hurricane Center, in its latest bulletin, says that Joaquin is now 80 miles south, southeast of San Salvador with winds of 125 mph.
The government of the Bahamas has issued a Tropical Storm Warning for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Here's our original post ...
Hurricane Joaquin — newly minted as a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds — is lashing the sparely populated central and eastern Bahamas. It is forecast to speed up and move north in the next few days for a possible encounter with the U.S. East Coast, the National Hurricane Center says in its latest advisory.
As of about 8:30 a.m. ET, Joaquin's eye was located about 70 miles southeast of San Salvador in the Bahamas, near Samana Cay. The Associated Press quotes Capt. Stephen Russell of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency as saying that storm surge and minor flooding have been reported in the region, but no casualties or significant damage.
The AP writes:
"The storm was predicted to turn to the north and northwest toward the United States late Thursday or Friday, but forecasters were still gathering data to determine how it might affect the U.S.
" 'There's still a distinct possibility that this could make landfall somewhere in the U.S.,' said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and hurricane center spokesman."
Brian McNoldy, a hurricane forecaster for the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, writes on The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog:
"Joaquin has the potential to be a very significant storm for the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states. Heavy rain will be the first threat to the region on Thursday and Friday. The latest guidance from the National Weather Service includes an enormous swath of rainfall totals in excess of 6 inches over the coming week, with as much as 10 inches falling on the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware coasts.
"By Saturday, coastal erosion and storm surge flooding could become a huge problem starting in the Carolinas and working its way up to New England by Sunday."