'Massive' amounts of rain possible in next 48 hours as Joaquin passes by

VIDEO: Hurricane Joaquin gains strength in Atlantic, moving toward Bahamas

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Lowcountry could experience up to a foot of rainfall over a period of three days beginning Thursday night as Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 3, passes along the Eastern seaboard, forecast models suggest.

"Rainfall from tonight though Saturday could peak out at around eight to 12 inches," Meteorologist Justin Lock said at noon. "Most areas should be a bit below that, but nonetheless, we have flash flood watches and flood watches from Charleston all the way to the nation's capital."

The heaviest rain appears to be likely late Friday through Saturday night, but it depends on Joaquin's path and its proximity to the coastline, Lock said.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty, but what we know is some massive amounts of rain certainly will be possible here are we head into the next 48 hours," he said.

The rain potential is from a cold front moving off the Lowcountry coast Thursday that is expected to stall as deep tropical moisture from Joaquin runs over it. As such, that rain is an indirect result of Joaquin rather than actual rain bands from the system itself.

Rain chances should dramatically fall off by Sunday and Monday, Lock said.

Some forecast models show heavy rain accumulations of between four and eight inches over the next three days, while some suggest even more, he said.

Joaquin's current position

At 11 a.m., the center of Hurricane Joaquin was located near latitude 23.0 North, longitude 73.9 West, about 80 miles south-southeast of San Salvador.

Maximum sustained winds are at 125 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. If maximum sustained winds reach 131 mph, it would be reclassified as a Category 4 hurricane.

Some strengthening is forecast in the next day or so, with some fluctuations in intensity possible on Friday.

Joaquin is moving toward the west-southwest near 6 mph, and this motion is expected to continue Thursday. A turn toward the west-northwest is forecast Thursday night, followed by a turn toward the north and an increase in forward speed on Friday.

On the forecast track, the center of Joaquin will move near or over portions of the central Bahamas Thursday and Thursday night and pass near or over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Friday.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.

Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh says some high surf, strong rip tides and possible squally weather is possible this weekend.

"At this point, we are looking for a long wave trough to pick up the hurricane and keep it off our coast, however, the longer it stays in the south and over warm water, the upper environment will be changing and the future track of the storm could also change including a more westerly heading," Walsh said. "If it misses the trough, more of the mid-Atlantic or even the southeast could be threatened by the storm."

The hurricane is expected to move north and well off the South Carolina coast this weekend but possibly swinging back toward the U.S. east coast near the mid-Atlantic states which have already been hit with recent flooding rains.

Current watches and warnings

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Central Bahamas, the Northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Bimini and Andros Island.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Southeastern Bahamas excluding the Turks and Caicos Islands and Andros Island.

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

The National Hurricane Center will continue to update the forecast track of Joaquin every six hours at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11.p.m.

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