The forecast track of Hurricane Joaquin has shifted further eastward as the model guidance suite has shifted further east and the models are beginning to show less spread between each other. As noted in previous posts, the scenario where Joaquin took a path either out to sea and possibly brushing Bermuda was always on the table and so it is a little bit misleading to say that Joaquin is only now just becoming a ‘potential threat’ or ‘threat’ to Bermuda. A Tropical Cyclone forecast to pass within 400 nautical miles of Bermuda is classified as a ‘potential threat’ while any Tropical Cyclone forecast to bring adverse weather to Bermuda is classified as a ‘threat’. Today, confidence has grown around this scenario and Joaquin could begin to spread tropical storm conditions across Bermuda as early as Sunday evening as it passes some distance to the west of Bermuda. This is reflected by the Bermuda Weather Service issuing a Tropical Storm Watch for Bermuda in their 4:30pm forecast.
Joaquin remains a major hurricane this afternoon. It continued strengthening yesterday morning, reaching category four strength and became one of the most intense hurricanes to make a direct hit on the Central Bahamas in the modern record as pressures fell as low as 931mb. Maintaining category four strength overnight and through this morning, an astounding 36+ hours of sustained hurricane or major hurricane conditions should be coming to an end on the Central Bahamas islands in the next few hours as Joaquin begins to track northward. These conditions include potentially life threatening storm surge, topped with large and battering waves, along with torrential rains over several tidal cycles.
As of the 6pm advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Joaquin remains a major hurricane but has weakened slightly and now has maximum 1-minute sustained winds near 125mph and a minimum central pressure near 942mb.
- Joaquin is expected to continue northward out of the Bahamas as it feels the southerly flow around a mid-latitude system over the Southeastern United States. Joaquin then turns more northeastward on Saturday and begins to approach Bermuda before turning back northward on Sunday and passing to the west of Bermuda on Sunday night. On Monday, Joaquin gets caught in the mid-latitude westerly flow and returns to a northeasterly track and accelerates into the Central far North Atlantic.
- Joaquin has likely either already peaked in intensity, or will do so in the next 12-24 hours before environmental conditions begin to become less favorable for a major hurricane. By Saturday evening, expect a steady weakening trend to begin and last through transition to a powerful post-tropical cyclone just south of Atlantic Canada on Monday night.
- As the hurricane passes to the west of Bermuda, following the NHC forecast track as of 6pm, expect southeasterly winds to increase to tropical storm force while veering to the south on Sunday through Sunday night. Winds continue to veer to the southwest then begin to decrease below tropical storm force on Monday. Expect squally showers with a chance for thunder as the outer bands of Joaquin cross the island. Further, hazardous sea states will develop over the weekend and last into Tuesday due to rough southerly swells. Keep in mind that tropical storm force winds extend up to 180 nautical miles from the center of Joaquin.
- A Tropical Storm Watch means that the onset of tropical storm conditions (sustained winds over 39mph or 34kts) is possible in the next 48hours. Continue to monitor updates and changes to the Bermuda Weather Service & National Hurricane Center products and forecast as more information becomes available and forecast confidence improves in the approach of Joaquin. There is still a higher than normal level of uncertainty in this forecast and small changes in the track now could result in dramatically different conditions in Bermuda as Joaquin passes.