Joaquin now a hurricane, still heading for NJ
While there is still some uncertainty in this forecast, it is becoming increasingly likely that New Jersey will see some degree of heavy rain, gusty winds, and/or coastal flooding from Hurricane Joaquin.
As of its 8 a.m. update, the National Hurricane Center has upgraded Joaquin to a category 1 Hurricane. Estimated sustained winds are at 75.
Hurricane warnings have been posted for part of the Bahamas. No watches or warnings have been issued for the U.S. yet.
The latest official track looks pretty ominous for the Garden State, with most of the state back in that "cone of uncertainty". Remember, the white markers on the following graphic indicate the most likely position of the center of the storm by early Monday morning - they do not give any information regarding the size or extent of the storm.
Confidence is growing that we are going to see some really messy weather from Joaquin through early next week. Here's the latest spaghetti plot, showing Joaquin's expected track according to 32 different forecast models...
Blur your eyes a little while staring at that jumbled mess, and you will see the vast majority of these models eventually turn Joaquin toward the United States. The general consensus seems to be toward a landfall south of New Jersey, somewhere between the Delmarva and the Carolinas. As I mentioned yesterday, it really doesn't matter where along the coast the storm eventually makes landfall - any of these solutions would include some degree of weather and/or surf problems for New Jersey.
However... the landfalling hurricane solution is still not a 100% sure bet... The spaghetti plot above indicates a number of outliers that turn Joaquin eastward toward the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That also includes the almighty European model, which rapidly sweeps Joaquin out to sea, before the east coast even sees a drop of rain from the storm. That alone is enough fodder to keep some doubts and some hesitation in today's forecast. Until and unless the Euro model flips to match the others, it is difficult to offer a high confidence forecast.
Observations via satellite and hurricane hunters have so far painted Joaquin as a stronger storm than models have indicated. Now, the vast majority of forecast models showed Joaquin will become a category 1 hurricane Wednesday (which it did), and potentially strengthening to a category 2 hurricane by Thursday afternoon.
The rapid decrease in intensity after the 96-hour mark (early Sunday morning) is expected as Joaquin potentially comes close to U.S. Cooler water and friction will cause the storm to lose some oomph as the storm approaches landfall.
Worst Case Scenario for New Jersey
Yesterday, I presented three potential scenarios for the track of Joaquin. I highly recommend you refresh your memory as to these options before reading further.
The best case scenario for New Jersey at this point would still be if the storm take the "out to sea" track, according to the Euro model among others. We would still potentially see some tropically induced heavy rain, and some rough surf... while the wind and flooding would be marginal at best.
Meanwhile, the current most likely scenario is pretty close to the worst case scenario. Following a landfall somewhere between Delaware and South Carolina, Joaquin would track up the coast. We would still have the torrential rain threat - upwards of 5 to 8 inches (or more). We would still have the wind threat - with 50+ mph gusts (I've seen as high as an 80 mph gust on one model this morning). And depending how close the storm gets to the Jersey Shore, we could still have the storm surge and coastal flooding threat- 3+ foot surge would cause significant coastal erosion.
A lot of New Jerseyans have been asking about how the impacts of Joaquin will play out late this week through the weekend. Here is my attempt at a timeline. This is frankly an educated guess at the forecast. Please keep in mind, this forecast is really volatile, and is very much subject to change...
A Final Note on Uncertainty
This has been one of the most complicated storm forecasts in recent memory, given the wide variety of model tracks and the inconsistency of each model from run to run. While there remain some question marks regarding this storm's precise track and timing, we are becoming more comfortable and more confident that the impacts on New Jersey and the entire eastern seaboard will be significant. That would be even more true if the European model resolved to match most of the other storm track solutions.
Is this storm going to be as bad as Sandy? Highly doubtful. Sandy was a one-of-a-kind storm that made direct landfall in New Jersey, and came from a completely different direction.
Is this storm still worth watching for New Jerseyans? Absolutely. No matter where you live in New Jersey, your plans for this weekend through early next week are in jeopardy. It's time to start thinking about contingencies, and whether you have enough food and other supplies to last through the weekend.
We will, of course, continue to provide updates several times a day on-air, online, and via social media.