MIAMI, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Tropical Storm Joaquin is expected to strengthen while moving north of the East Coast, potentially bringing bands of rain, winds and heavy surf to beaches through early next week.
National Hurricane Center forecasters reported the storm shows increasing organization, though wind shear has kept it from having a completely closed circulation. The heaviest storm activity is along its south and east sections. An Air Force hurricane hunter reconnaissance plane was scheduled to investigate the storm Tuesday afternoon.
The storm is currently northeast of the Bahamas and headed west toward Florida at 5 mph. It is expected to make an abrupt turn to the north Thursday and Friday before reaching the Bahamas. It is expected to accelerate and be several hundred miles off the North Carolina coast Sunday morning. Forecasters warned their long-term track has a low confidence because of weather pattern uncertainties and a fairly wide range of possibilities in their computer models.
Wind shear keeping the storm from strengthening is expected to ease within 48 hours, which would allow Joaquin to approach hurricane strength in a few days. But confidence in that forecast also is low. Some long-range models predict Joaquin will make landfall in North Carolina or Virginia.
Two other stormy areas are being watched for possible development. One area of disturbed weather in north Florida now bringing tropical moisture across much of the state is given no chance of becoming a tropical system in the next 48 hours. Another northeast of the Lesser Antilles has a 10 percent chance.