It's a menacing storm on satellite, and one many residents of The Bahamas are now scurrying to prepare for. Floridians, however, can rest easy. Tropical Storm Joaquin strengthened overnight, now packing winds up to 70 mph as it drifts west-southwest toward The Bahamas, but the storm is likely to turn north by Friday and spare the entire peninsula. Outside of some large ocean swells and a high rip current risk at the Atlantic beaches, some really nice weather is on the way to The Sunshine State this weekend.
This won't be the case for our neighbors to the east. The National Hurricane Center said in their 5 am advisory that Joaquin will likely become a hurricane later this morning and a hurricane hunter aircraft was en route to the investigate the storm. The government of The Bahamas has issued a Hurricane Warning for the central Bahamas, and a Hurricane Watch has gone up for the northern islands. Hurricane conditions are possible in the warned area as early as tonight or early Thursday. Joaquin may never cross the islands before it turns north, but it could really close.
Residents of the Mid-Atlantic states are likely waking up a bit nervous this morning, as many of the forecast solutions for Joaquin now predict it to come ashore as a hurricane late this weekend anywhere from North Carolina to New Jersey. While a considerable amount of uncertainty still exists on the eventual track and strength of 2015's tenth named storm, recent forecast trends have placed more of the East Coast in the potential damage path. A trough of low pressure deepening in the Southeast, possibly acting to pull it toward the coast like a sling shot, will be countered by a weakness in the steering currents over the western Atlantic that might allow for it to move further out to sea.
It's too early to say with much forecast credibility where Joaquin may go after Friday, but there is high confidence the storm does not have its eye on Florida. In fact, drier air, sunny skies and cooler temperatures will likely be the forecast headline in Florida by Sunday. The dry air may stick around for several days as well, signaling an end to the rainy season for many.
Now is a good time to stay up to date on Joaquin with the new mobile app, Florida Storms. It's a free service of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network and provides real-time weather information and customized push notification alerts to dangerous weather in your area.