Hurricane Joaquin A ‘Severe’ Category 4, Punishing The Central Bahamas, Obama Declares State Of Emergency In South Carolina

The Weather Channel reports of “rapid intensification” of Hurricane Joaquin with winds being recorded of 155 miles per hour. This is only two miles per hour less than a Category Five, the most severe. New York and the East Coast of the United States is bracing itself. There is already poor weather conditions on Coney Island.

Thirty-three people are lost at sea. For 36 hours, the U.S.-flagged El Fara container ship has been out of contact. The ship would have been hit with the strongest of the storms winds. If they have survived, they are unable to communicate their position. Although earlier reports had played down the severity of the storm, after hitting the Bahamas, Hurricane Joaquin is getting stronger.

“Hurricane Joaquin reintensified quickly on Saturday after its eyewall finally accelerated away from the Bahamas.”

It has been eight years since a storm of this intensity. Hurricane Felix in 2007 caused similar destruction and made it to the 155 miles per hour mark. Hurricane Joaquin has surprised people by returning to full power.

As of 15:15, the latest reports are that the hurricane has gained strength and those on the East Coast should be on high alert for reports on whether to head for higher ground.

Obama Declares State of Emergency

Reports are that in South Carolina, crews are working to restore power in areas of Lexington and Richland and 41 roads across the state. The storm is now expected to head South toward Columbia.

As the weather remains rainy and windy on the East Coast, photographer Spencer Platt documents life in New York as rain, wind, and bad weather beleaguer the local population of Coney Island in anticipation for what is to come in the next couple of days.

The most recent update is from the National Hurricane Center who has drawn a map of the projected path of Hurricane Joaquin. At 2 p.m. Sunday, the eye of the storm will be at its closest point to New York.

“The cone contains the probable path of the storm center but does not show the size of the storm. Hazardous conditions can occur outside of the cone.”

This map shows that Hurricane Joaquin could potentially batter the East Coast as it moves Northward into early next week.

Update: As of just one hour ago (16:26 Eastern Time), it is being reported that Joaquin’s “assault” on the Bahamas has sent the storm Northeastward, just 50 miles off the coast. If the incursion into South Carolina is anything to judge by, residents along the coast can expect rainfall of up to 16 inches.

Virginia Beach, D.C., and New York will all be affected by strong winds, coastal flooding, and beach erosion. The most immediate effects will be flooding which could break through defences and destroy homes.

“People in the Carolinas should be prepared to move to higher ground to protect life if flood waters approach their homes.”

In a previous article, it was reported that global warming will make hurricanes like this more common in the future, and in fact an aggressive El Nino is expected this year. As the most recent reporting of Hurricane Joaquin suggests, these storms are unpredictable. At any time the storm could take a different direction toward land, and even if this one does not, more storms are predicted and eventually a Category Five could move straight into high density areas on the East Coast of the United States or some other densely populated region of the world. Flooding in New York on the devastation level of Katrina would mean millions would be left homeless and billions of dollars would be lost.

[Images by Spencer Platt, Handout and Press / Getty / NHC]