Everything we know about Hurricane Joaquin

As of the morning of October 1, the exact forecast for Hurricane Joaquin is still uncertain, but we have a fairly good idea of a few things.

Here’s everything we know about Joaquin so far:

It’s strong

Hurricane Joaquin is currently a Category 3 storm, which means its winds are between 11 mph and 129. That could pose a significant threat if the storm makes landfall at that strength, according to the NOAA:

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.

It’s expected to reach Category 4 by late Thursday. Some of the latest predictions show it could intensify to a Category 5 by the end of the night. If it makes landfall in the US it will be the strongest in almost a decade to do so, since Hurricane Wilma made landfall in Florida in October 2005.

It’s bringing a lot of rain

Hurricane Joaquin could bring up to two feet of rain to the US East Coast — even if it doesn’t make landfall. From the latest forecasts, it looks like either Virginia or New Jersey will get drenched the most.

Here’s the animation of the rainfall projections along the east coast from September 30 to October 7. The projection shown here isn’t an official NOAA prediction, but it pulls data from US, Canadian, European, Japanese, and other forecast models. The colour bar, which is displayed in inches, ranges from light rain in green to torrential downpours producing up to 2 feet of rain in orange.

States as far south as South Carolina all the way up to Maine could get pummelled with rain.

It’s going to be windy

Here’s NOAA’s wind predictions through October 6 (as of October 1). Depending where the Hurricane heads, winds could be intense.

We really don’t know where it’s going to hit, if anywhere

The predicted path (above) looks like it’s headed straight to New York, but that’s not necessarily true. That path is the
average of a few wildly different scenarios that could play out.

Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes for Slate, noted on Wednesday that:

The latest official National Hurricane Center forecast to shift back to the north, toward the New York City metro area, though I don’t think it will remain there for long. That’s because a New York City landfall hasn’t been consistently showing up in any model — it’s merely the NHC’s way of splitting the difference between two very different but roughly equally likely possibilities: a landfall in the Carolinas/Virginia or a track safely out to sea.

Here’s a simple version of the map showing multiple different tracks this storm could take.

The problem is not that we’re terrible at understanding what various atmospheric data points mean. It’s that there are so very many data points, and they’re all changing every single second. Our tools for understanding the limited information we have to go on are actually pretty advanced.

Holthaus explains this problem well: “To accurately understand what the weather will do days in advance, you have to observe it perfectly — and perfectly understand the underlying physics. We actually do the second part better than the first — there is just no way to launch enough weather balloons or satellites to monitor the entire Earth system, down to the millimetre.”

Still, even with the general complexities of weather forecasting, Hurricane Joaquin is what Columbia researcher Adam Sobel calls “an unusually uncertain situation, with the forecasts changing more rapidly than usual.”

Flooding has already started

According to Holthaus: “Minor coastal flooding is already occurring along the East Coast from strong onshore winds being funneled between Joaquin to the south and strong Canadian high pressure to the north. That flooding will likely worsen over the next few days, regardless of the track of Joaquin.”

States are already prepping for the worst

New Jersey has already declared a state of emergency in preparation for the storm to hit.

“We know there is definitely going to be moderate and likely to be major flooding events in South Jersey Friday and Saturday with five to six inches of rainfall expected to come,” Governor Chris Christie said at a Thursday morning press conference.

Hurricane watches and warnings are likely to go into effect late Thursday.

We are frequently updating this post, so check back often. You can also use the WNYC hurricane tracker tool and follow the National Hurricane Center for the latest details. We found this Reddit post very thorough as well.

NOW WATCH: Nate Silver explains why meteorologists get the weather forecast so wrong

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