UPDATE: Joaquin becomes a Category 3 hurricane

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Map of precipitable water for Friday showing how moisture will be angled from Joaquin right into the Carolinas. Photo Courtesy of NWS.
Map of precipitable water for Friday showing how moisture will be angled from Joaquin right into the Carolinas. Photo Courtesy of NWS.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 11 p.m.

Hurricane Joaquin has become a Category 3 storm as it moves toward the central Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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UPDATE: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Hurricane Joaquin’s predicted track has shifted farther west with several National Weather Service computer models now predicting landfall off the northern North Carolina coast in three to four days. Forecasters expect a higher chance for flooding with tropical storm force winds of 40 mph across the eastern Carolinas.

As Joaquin continues to strengthen and push northwest, forecasters have now issued a flood watch for the entire Wilmington county warning area, effective beginning 8 p.m. Thursday. This includes, Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender and Columbus counties.

Since rainfall will be falling into an area already saturated over the past week, flooding is expected to quickly develop with heavy rainfall totals amounting to an estimated four to seven inches.

The NWS expects very dangerous maritime conditions this weekend with sea swells potentially exceeding 40 feet across the outer coastal and offshore waters, depending on Joaquin’s exact track.

Joaquin is currently in a region of very weak steering flow, and will remain near the Bahamas for the next 48 hours before beginning to lift north.

Port City Daily will continue to update the story as new information becomes available.

Earlier Wednesday afternoon:

Forecasters predict the Cape Fear region will see rain with a possibility of flooding as Joaquin, now a Category 1 hurricane, makes its way toward the east coast.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), Joaquin, previously a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean, became classified as a hurricane Wednesday morning.

Forecasters are uncertain of Joaquin’s exact track as it turns toward the east coast. Regardless of the track of Joaquin, forecasters predict rain from the storm will be funneled into the eastern Carolinas beginning late Thursday, creating the potential for several days of torrential rainfall and flooding.

Since the ground is saturated in many areas, the NWS predicts any additional heavy rainfall could easily lead to flooding and will become the area’s biggest hazard from Joaquin. The Weather Prediction Center has already placed the region in a “slight risk” for excessive rainfall beginning Thursday.

Forecasters say the storm will strengthen over the next two to three days, which could turn Joaquin into a Category 2 intensity by the weekend, dumping an estimated seven inches of rain in the area. Coastal water levels will remain high, especially with each high tide over the next few days.

The combination of increasing wave action and water run-up may lead to more beach erosion and rip currents will become elevated beginning as early as Thursday.

Port City Daily will continue to update the story as new information becomes available.