Hurricane Joaquin affects the Bahamas

Major hurricane Joaquin is battering the central Bahamas with hurricane force winds, storm surge and heavy rain.

At 5:00 a.m. EST (0900 GMT), the center of Hurricane Joaquin was located near latitude 23.4 North, longitude 73.7 West. Joaquin is moving toward the west-southwest near 5 mph (7 km/h), and this motion is expected to continue today.

A turn toward the west- northwest is forecast on 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 and the northwestern Bahamas.

Maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher gusts. Joaquin is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some strengthening is forecast in the next day or so, with some fluctuations in intensity possible on Friday.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles (220 km). The estimated minimum central pressure is 948 mb (27.99 inches).

Providenciales, is expected to receive a minimal impact from Hurricane Joaquin with top sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts near 36 knots.