Joaquin intensified to a category 3 hurricane Wednesday as residents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut dealt with waterlogged roads and gloomy conditions while waiting to learn more about the swirling tropical system's future path.
The National Weather Service said the storm reached hurricane strength at about 8 a.m. as maximum sustained winds topped 75 mph. It intensified by mid-afternoon as it approached the small, sparsely populated islands of the eastern Bahamas, and by Wednesday night, had sustained winds of 115 mph.
It remains unclear where or if the storm could make landfall in the United States. Current computer models suggest Joaquin could come ashore somewhere between North Carolina and the Delmarva Peninsula to the north, but nearly every state from North Carolina to Connecticut is in the storm's so-called "cone of uncertainty."
If Joaquin does make landfall on or glances the tri-state, heavy rains, coastal flooding, beach erosion and strong winds could all be possible, Storm Team 4 says.
The city's Office of Emergency Management says it has been monitoring the storm system for some time and will hold daily weather consults with the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center as it continues to track the hurricane. The office said it has robust plans in place for "these types of events" and has begun holding interagency conference calls.
Gov. Cuomo urged New Yorkers to prepare for possible floods and storm damage.
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At least one community in New Jersey is bracing for the potential impact. The mayor of Belmar, New Jersey, tweeted photos of crews with bulldozers creating piles of sand to protect against a potential storm surge on Tuesday. The Jersey shore town is also pumping water from Lake Como to protect against rising waters.
If Joaquin's rains do reach the tri-state, they'll come atop several days of heavy downpours and dreary conditions. Heavy rain fell across the region Wednesday morning, but there were no reports of major flooding from the storm.
The rain stuck around a bit Wednesday ahead of a cold front that is expected to drop the mercury into the low 50s overnight.
Storm Team 4 says temperatures aren't likely to recover much on Thursday, with highs in the 50s amid lingering showers.
Gloomy weather is expected to hang around through the weekend but because of Joaquin's uncertain path, it's unclear how much rain and wind will hit the region.