Remember yesterday when New York City was supposed to get seven days of rain, with maybe a tropical-storm denouement? Those were the good days.
Overnight, Tropical Storm Joaquin got much bigger, windier, and intense and became the third hurricane of the season at around eight o’clock on Wednesday morning. The hurricane now rates as Category 1, and it may get even stronger by the end of the week, when meteorologists are forecasting it might hit the East Coast, bringing potentially massive amounts of rain and wind, as well as flood warnings. As of Wednesday evening, the National Hurricane Center thinks that Joaquin could become a scary Category 3 hurricane by Saturday — although it would most likely weaken before reaching land.
The forecasts are still pretty unclear about where the hurricane might hit land; currently every state between North Carolina and Connecticut is in the danger zone. According to this depiction, the potential path of the hurricane looks kind of like someone spilled a bowl of spaghetti on a map of the East Coast:
The National Weather Service’s graphic is more reminiscent of an early ‘80s video game:
The National Hurricane Center’s forecast became considerably more ominous by the end of the day. “A significant adjustment to the forecast has been made this afternoon,” the 5 p.m. update reads, “and this shows an increased threat to the mid-Atlantic states and the Carolinas. However, confidence in the details of the forecast after 72 hours remains low, since we have one normally excellent model that keeps Joaquin far away from the United States east coast. The range of possible outcomes is still large, and includes the possibility of a major hurricane landfall in the Carolinas.”
The forecast adds that “a hurricane watch for a portion of the U.S. coast could be required as early as Thursday evening.”
There is a chance — albeit a small one — that the hurricane will spiral out into the Atlantic Ocean instead of hitting the coast.
Hurricane Joaquin is currently headed toward the Bahamas; the country has issued hurricane warnings across its islands. The National Hurricane Center warns that “Preparations to protect life and property within the warning areas in the Bahamas should be rushed to completion.”
According to NBC New York, the city is already preparing for the impending storm, and the White House has said that FEMA is also watching the storm and that President Obama had been briefed on the situation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is warning everyone to start getting ready.
In New Jersey, a few towns that remember all too well what happened during Superstorm Sandy are starting to prepare for the worst.
On Twitter, people — even experts — are wondering if this storm will be another Sandy:
Right now a House of Cards–esque “I couldn’t possibly comment” is the safest way to discuss the storm’s potential impact. Or, as the National Weather Service puts it, “it should be repeated that the confidence in the track forecast is very low.”
Before the storm approaches the East Coast, residents will have a chance to get acclimated to the rain — something that has been scarce this summer — since it is supposed to rain every single day for the next seven days.
This post has been updated throughout.