Hurricane Joaquin pounded islands off the central Bahamas with torrential rain and powerful winds and waves on Friday, but forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it was not likely to hit America's East Coast.
"An extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm on a scale of one to five, Joaquin is causing flooding in lightly populated parts of the Bahamas.
Whether Joaquin comes ashore or continues further out to sea in the Atlantic Ocean, the governors of five U.S. coastal states – New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina – declared emergencies and announced measures in preparation for the storm, including the mobilization of National Guard troops.
Nearly three years ago, superstorm Sandy moved inland from the Atlantic and devastated shorelines in New York and New Jersey, killing more than 120 people and causing about $70 billion in property damage.
Joaquin was moving at six kilometers per hour as it passed over the Bahamas, with sustained winds of 215 kph and winds reaching out 80 kilometers from the eye of the storm. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the island chain.
Joaquin is the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic season.
Forecasters predicted storm surges of 1.5 to 3 meters in the central Bahamas, with up to 51 centimeters of rain in some areas.
San Salvador, Cat Island and Rum Cay were expected to experience the most significant effects in the Bahamas before the storm shifts northward.